At least 17 states across the US have seen COVID-19 infections surge in the last week as record numbers of new cases and hospitalizations continue to sweep through the likes of Florida, Texas and Alabama.
Several of the states, mostly in the South, have seen an increase in new cases since Memorial Day as health officials warn of a potential surge in new coronavirus infections as states push ahead with reopening.
Alabama reported a record number of new cases for the fourth day in a row on Sunday.
Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Carolina all had record numbers of new cases in the past three days.
In Louisiana, which had been one of the earlier virus hot spots, new cases were again on the rise with over 1,200 – the most there since May 21.
Nationally, there were over 25,000 new cases reported on Saturday, the highest tally for a Saturday since May 2, in part due to a significant increase in testing over the past six weeks.
In total, more than 115,000 Americans have now died of COVID-19 and two million have been infected.
ALABAMA CASES: Alabama reported a record number of new cases for the fourth day in a row on Sunday
TEXAS CASES: Cases have been on the rise in Texas since the Memorial Day weekend. Texas has been at the forefront of states’ efforts to reopen their economies
FLORIDA CASES: The number of infections have spiked in Florida throughout June and has had record numbers of new cases in the past three days
Many state health officials partly attribute the increase to gatherings over the Memorial Day holiday weekend in late May. Others say the increase in cases is due to more robust testing.
Experts have for weeks been raising concerns that the reopening of the US economy could lead to a fresh wave of infections.
Many of the states that have seen increases in cases are also seeing record hospitalizations – a metric not affected by increased testing and perhaps more troubling for health officials.
Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas and Utah all had a record number of patients enter the hospital on Saturday. In South Carolina, 69 percent to 77 percent of hospital beds are occupied in various regions.
While Utah’s governor announced last week that most counties there would pause their reopenings, most states are not considering a second shutdown as they face budget shortfalls and double-digit unemployment.
Many went ahead with reopenings before meeting government infection rate guidelines for doing so.
New York, the hardest hit state, has utilized health guidelines to instruct its reopening and continued to see all measures of infection drop – new cases, deaths, hospitalizations and positive rates among those getting tested.
NORTH CAROLINA HOSPITALIZATIONS: North Carolina had a record number of patients enter the hospital on Saturday
ARIZONA HOSPITALIZATIONS: Arizona has continued to have record hospitalizations for coronavirus in the past few days
TEXAS HOSPITALIZATIONS: The number of people being admitted to hospital in Texas for COVID-19 continues to increase
ARKANSAS HOSPITALIZATIONS: Arkansas had a record number of patients enter the hospital over the week to be treated for coronavirus
However, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned New York City and Long Island officials on Sunday that their reopenings were at risk if they do not stop further large public gatherings that he said are threatening progress on curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
Cuomo said the state has received 25,000 complaints recently of violations of social distancing and other emergency requirements, mostly in Manhattan and the Hamptons, affluent beach communities on the east end of Long Island.
Fears that a second wave of infections is happening – or that states failed to curb their first wave – has prompted health officials to plead with the public to wear masks and avoid large gatherings.
It comes as President Donald Trump still plans to hold his first campaign rally since early March on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma – although those attending will have to agree not to hold the campaign responsible if they contract COVID-19.
About a third of the record new cases in the state came from Tulsa County, according to state data.
The Tulsa Health Department on Friday said the outbreak was linked to indoor gatherings. Hospitalizations and the percent of tests coming back positive have been steady in the state.
‘I have concerns about large groups of people gathering indoors for prolonged lengths of time. It is imperative that anyone who chooses to host or attend a gathering take the steps to stay safe,’ said Bruce Dart, the department’s executive director.
Trump has refused to wear a mask at a series of recent public events.
It comes after Dr Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the US, cautioned last week that the ‘blips’ of rising coronavirus hospitalizations being reported by some states could get out of control if robust contact tracing regimes are not put in place.
He said the US was bound to see infections increase as restrictions on economic activity were lifted.
‘But when you start seeing more hospitalizations, that’s a sure fire sign that you’re in a situation where you’re going in the wrong direction,’ Fauci told CNN.
Fauci said increased hospitalizations was a worrying trend and a sign that ‘maybe we need to slow down a little’ on reopenings.
A handful of states and cities have now paused or slowed reopenings due to increases in cases.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown said she would put county applications to reopen on hold after the state reported a record daily rise in new coronavirus cases on Thursday.
‘This is essentially a statewide ‘yellow light,’ it’s time to press pause for one week before any further reopening,’ Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement.
Utah’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert on Friday ordered most of the state to halt reopening while it investigated a jump in cases.
‘I don’t want to go forward and then take a step backward,’ Herbert said of the order that remains in effect until June 26.