California shuts down again as US coronavirus cases surge

‘People aren’t listening’: Covid-19 infections rise rapidly in about 40 US states over the last two weeks

While US president Donald Trump took a swipe at health experts in his government leading the response to Covid-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci, answered with an appeal for states to stick to guidelines to snuff out a surge in cases. Video: Reuters

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California’s governor ordered a retreat on Monday from the state’s reopening as coronavirus cases soared and the state’s two largest school districts, Los Angeles and San Diego, announced all learning will be online-only when classes resume in a few weeks.

California governor Gavin Newsom shut bars and banned indoor restaurant dining statewide, while closing churches, gyms and hair salons in the hardest-hit counties.

Mr Newsom acted as Covid-19 cases strained hospitals in several rural counties and as infections mounted in Los Angeles and parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Los Angeles is the second-largest school district in the United States and with San Diego has a combined 706,000 students and 88,000 employees.

US president Donald Trump, seeking re-election in November, has demanded schools reopen nationwide for in-person learning in the autumn. His campaign views reopening schools as necessary for economic recovery, especially for working parents with young children.

Mr Trump trails his presumptive Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, in opinion polls both nationwide and in swing states that decide elections.

Florida along with Arizona, California and Texas have emerged as the new US epicentres of the pandemic. Infections have risen rapidly in about 40 of the 50 states over the last two weeks, according to a Reuters analysis.

Despite nearly 28,000 new Covid-19 cases in the last two days, Florida has announced no new measures such as a statewide mask mandate, and Disney World in Orlando remains open for business.

‘People aren’t listening’

Linda Stuart (70), a lifelong resident of Orlando, Florida, said she and her family were staying at home except to go to the grocery and were “painfully aware” how quickly cases are rising.

“But sadly, too many people aren’t listening,” she said. “This should be terrifying them, but it isn’t. Not enough people are even wearing masks.”

The rise in Florida cases emerged hours after Mr Trump took swipes at health experts in his government leading the US response to the pandemic and his relationship further frayed with infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

People cycling and walking along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida in late June. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty
People cycling and walking along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida in late June. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty

On Sunday, Florida reported a record increase of more than 15,000 new cases of Covid-19 in 24 hours. If Florida were a country, that would rank it fourth in the world for the most new cases in a day, behind the United States, Brazil and India, according to a Reuters analysis.

Florida’s Disney World welcomed the public on Saturday for the first time since March with guests required to wear masks, undergo temperature checks and keep physically apart.

Walt Disney Co faces a starkly different response in Hong Kong where the government has ordered the Disneyland theme park to close due to rising coronavirus cases.

Hong Kong recorded 52 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, bringing total cases to 1,522. In Florida’s Orange County, home to Disney World, cases rose by 623 to a total of 18,624, the fifth highest outbreak in the state’s counties.

With over 7.5 million residents, Hong Kong has more than five times the population of Orange County.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has called the state’s rise in cases “a blip” and told residents not to be alarmed.

Florida recorded more than 500 deaths this past week, compared with over 300 the prior week. It is one of about two dozen states where deaths have risen in the last seven days compared with the prior seven days, according to a Reuters analysis.

The number of Covid-19 patients hospitalised in Florida is quickly rising, with more than 500 new patients in the past 24 hours raising to 8,000 the number in hospitals, according to a state agency.– Reuters