FLORIDA HAS REPORTED a record number of coronavirus cases in the latest sign that the virus is surging in many parts of the United States, casting a pall over Fourth of July celebrations.
Officials and health authorities warned people to take precautions or simply stay home on Independence Day, as confirmed cases are climbing in 40 states.
The US set another daily record today with 53,069 newly reported infections, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University that is widely thought to be an undercount.
Florida reported 11,445 confirmed infections today, bringing the statewide total to more than 190,000.
Alabama this week also set a record for infections reported in a day, with more than 1,700 new confirmed cases recorded on Thursday, and state health officials worried that the holiday weekend could lead to the type of spike that followed Memorial Day weekend.
“I’m really, really worried about the Fourth of July,” said Dr Don Williamson, a former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association.
“I think that will likely determine the trend for Alabama for the rest of the summer.”
The sobering updates came as local officials and health experts across the country tried to minimise opportunities for the virus to continue spreading on a holiday weekend typically spent swimming, eating at garden gatherings or crowding elbow-to-elbow to view parades and fireworks shows.
Many communities cancelled those events and cautioned people against gathering on their own.
In Florida, bars statewide are shut down and some regional attractions, such as Zoo Miami and Jungle Island, have closed.
Officials in south Florida – including in Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys – closed beaches through the weekend.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis blamed the rise on “social interactions” among young people gathering at parties, beaches, bars, swimming pools and elsewhere, as well as a more “robust” testing program.
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In Texas, where more than 2,500 people have died, Governor Greg Abbott ordered people in counties with 20 or more cases to wear masks and banned gatherings of more than 10.
Those efforts are in stark contrast to President Donald Trump’s weekend agenda, including a fireworks display on Friday night at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and Saturday’s Salute for America celebration set to include a presidential speech on the White House South Lawn and an enormous fireworks display that could pack people into central Washington in the evening.
His characteristically optimistic outlook came a day after Arizona – population 7.3 million – recorded more new cases and deaths than the entire European Union – which has a population of 446 million.
In Britain on Saturday, some signs of normalcy returned with pubs and barbers reopening for the first time in months.
But other countries continued to report record highs in new confirmed cases, including South Africa and India.
In Australia and north-east Spain, authorities ordered lockdowns for specific counties or communities aimed at stomping out increases in cases.