North America

For the third day in a row, US coronavirus cases surge by more than 40,000

California's governor has ordered some bars to shut in the first major US rollback of reopening efforts, as the state and a dozen others are facing the worst surge in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.

Governor Gavin Newsom’s order for bars to close in seven counties, including Los Angeles, is the first big rollback of efforts to reopen the economy in the most populous US state.

On Friday, Texas and Florida ordered all bars to close.

The surge in COVID-19 cases has been most pronounced in several southern and western states that did not follow health officials’ recommendations to wait for a steady decline in cases before reopening their economies.

For a third consecutive day, the number of confirmed US cases leapt by more than 40,000, one of the largest surges in the world.

Even in states where cases have been declining for weeks, bars have been a source of outbreaks.

One bar in East Lansing, Michigan has been linked to more than 85 cases, according to local health officials who said that number is likely to rise.

In addition to bars, Texas shuttered tubing and rafting business on Friday to try to avoid crowds like those seen on Saturday in Arizona along the Salt River east of Phoenix.

As temperatures rose to above 38 degrees celsius, dozens of people, mostly without masks climbed into inflatable inner tubes with coolers and took to the water to escape the heat. 

Some beaches in Florida are also closing ahead of next weekend’s Fourth of July holiday, which would have drawn large crowds.

In Arizona, cases have risen by 267 per cent so far in June and jumped by a record 3,857 cases on Sunday, the eighth record-breaking increase this month. Georgia reported a record increase of 2,225 cases on Sunday. Fifteen states, including California, Florida and Texas, experienced record rises in cases last week.

Wear a mask

Just a day after he sounded a note of optimism about the US response to the pandemic and said the country was in “a much better place,” Vice President Mike Pence cancelled events to campaign for Republican President Donald Trump’s re-election in Florida and Arizona due to the outbreak, campaign officials said on Saturday.

In an interview with CBS, Mr Pence said he was confident that there were enough health care supplies and capacity to deal with the spike in cases.

He also defended Trump’s refusal to directly ask Americans to wear masks or to wear one in public himself, even as Texas Governor Greg Abbott and others said the widespread use of masks will be critical to be able to reopen the economy.

“We believe people should wear masks wherever social distancing is not possible, wherever it’s indicated by either state or local authorities,” Mr Pence told CBS.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, has criticised the administration’s response to the pandemic that has killed more than 125,000 Americans. She told ABC News on Sunday that mandatory use of masks across the country was long overdue.

Global coronavirus cases exceeded 10 million on Sunday according to a Reuters tally, marking a significant milestone in the spread of the respiratory disease that has so far killed almost half a million people in seven months.

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