The US’ COVID-19 case load is soaring at an explosive rate, even as leaders of some of the worst-hit states resist mandatory mask measures to stem the spread.
Health authorities reported more than 77,600 new cases on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University database.
The virus has killed nearly 140,000 people in the US and infected more than 3.6 million.
The number of patients hospitalized for the virus is at its highest level since April 23, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
The death rate, which plummeted in May and last month, has been rising since last week.
Florida, the new epicenter, posted more than 11,000 new cases and 128 deaths on Friday.
The virus is spreading to new parts of the country, including Idaho, Tennessee and Mississippi.
However, New York, the original US epicenter where more than 32,000 virus patients have died, moved to further ease its restrictions after bringing its outbreak under control.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday said that zoos and botanical gardens could open with limited capacity, as could baseball games, without spectators.
US President Donald Trump’s ratings have plummeted since the start of the pandemic. Only 38 percent of Americans approve of his handling of the crisis, against 51 percent in March, according to a Washington Post poll published on Friday.
Trump aide Kellyanne Conway on Friday said that the decline is explained because the president has stopped giving daily briefings on the virus.
“The president’s numbers were much higher when he was out there briefing everybody on a day-by-day basis about the coronavirus,” she said, adding: “I think the president should be doing that.”
“We’ve really got to regroup, call a time-out,” US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci told Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg in a video chat on Thursday.
“Not necessarily lock down again, but say: ‘We’ve got to do this in a more measured way,’” he added.
States enacted lockdowns in patchwork fashion, and several skipped important epidemiological checkpoints before easing stay-at-home orders, Fauci said.
Many have been forced to close bars that had just recently reopened, but also sometimes shut down gyms, movie theaters, places of worship and shops.
Some mayors have imposed mandatory mask orders.
However, in Georgia, the state’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp has sued Atlanta’s mayor for issuing a face-covering directive.
“While we all agree wearing a mask is effective, I am confident Georgians do not need a mandate to do the right thing,” Kemp said.
His lawsuit seeks to overturn not just the mask order, but Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ return to a stricter lockdown.
Similar conflicts abound elsewhere.
In Texas, which notched a record 174 coronavirus deaths on Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered a statewide mask order after seeing cases surge, but he has been condemned through censure resolutions passed by multiple local Republican officials.
Authorities in Texas cities, such as San Antonio and Corpus Christi, as well as in Maricopa County, Arizona, are ordering freezer trucks and trailers for bodies as they brace for the worst.
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