Concerns as US records new daily high of coronavirus cases

Texas governor orders all bars to close and restaurants to scale back capacity

The United States recorded a new daily high of coronavirus cases, amid mounting evidence that some of the largest states in the country are experiencing a new wave of the deadly disease.

As figures from Johns Hopkins University show that the US registered more than 40,000 new cases on Thursday, top immunologist Anthony Fauci said the US faced a "serious problem" in some parts of the country.

New data showed states in the south and west of the country, including Texas, Florida and Arizona particularly affected by the rise in cases.

But there were also worrying trends in California, Nevada, Mississippi and more rural states such as Montana and Wyoming, which have all seen an increase in infections in recent days.


In total, 16 states are experiencing a rise in cases and an increase in the percentage of those testing positive, vice-president Mike Pence confirmed.

Texas and Florida were forced to change their reopening plans, with Texas governor Greg Abbott ordering all bars to close and restaurants to scale back capacity from 75 per cent to 50 per cent.

“The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health,” the Republican governor said in a statement, noting that the rise in cases was largely driven by certain types of activities, “including Texans congregating in bars”.

Reopenings paused

Florida reported 8,942 cases on Friday – almost double the previous record of more than 5,500 cases reported earlier this week. Governor Ron DeSantis put the state’s reopening plan on pause, and bars were prohibited from selling alcohol, though beaches and restaurants remained open.

In California, Disneyland delayed its reopening, after the country’s most populous state recorded more than 7,000 new cases on Wednesday.

Speaking at the first coronavirus task force briefing in two months, which took place at the department of health and human services on Friday, Dr Fauci said a majority of people getting infected were young people. But he warned that those who were not showing symptoms should act responsibly.

“A risk for you is not just isolated to you ... if you get infected you are part of propagating the dynamic process of a pandemic,” he said. “We have a very heterogeneous country – but heterogeneity doesn’t mean that we are not intricately connected with each other.”

His comments appeared to contradict those of Mr Pence, who said the fact that half of new cases were among Americans aged under 35 was “at a certain level” good news, because younger people with Covid-19 were less likely to be hospitalsed.

Mr Pence praised President Donald Trump’s approach to the disease, noting there were now fewer deaths each day. He also defended the decision by the Trump re-election campaign to hold election rallies, in defiance of social distancing guidelines.

“The freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble is enshrined in the constitution... and we’ve an election coming up this fall,” he said.

Spike in cases

He also said there were no outstanding requests for supplies of personal protective equipment in states, including those seeing a spike in cases.

The US has recorded more than 123,000 deaths from Covid-19 and more than 2.4 million cases – the highest in the world. But the country’s approach to tackling the crisis has been characterised by an uneven response, reflecting in part the authority each individual state has over public health policy.

Generally, states run by Republican governors have taken a more relaxed approach to social distancing guidelines and have not mandated the use of masks, which is standard practice in many regions along the east coast.

On Thursday, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Robert Redfield, said the number of infected Americans was likely to be 10 times greater than the 2.4 million reported.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent