More than 60,500 new Covid-19 infections were reported across the United States on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally, setting yet another one-day record as weary Americans were told to take new precautions and the pandemic becomes increasingly politicized.
The total represents a slight rise from Wednesday, when there were 60,000 new cases, and marks the largest one-day increase by any country since the pandemic emerged in China last year.
The country, the hardest-hit in the world by the pandemic, has a total caseload of more than 3.1 million, with 133,195 deaths.
The Johns Hopkins University, which has been recording daily figures for the US and other countries since the start of the pandemic, gave an even higher increase of 65,551 new coronavirus cases for Thursday alone.
As infections rose in 41 of the 50 states over the last two weeks, Americans have become increasingly divided on issues such as the reopening of schools and businesses. Orders by governors and local leaders mandating face masks have become particularly divisive.
"It's just disheartening because the selfishness of (not wearing a mask) versus the selflessness of my staff and the people in this hospital who are putting themselves at risk, and I got Covid-19 from this," said Dr. Andrew Pastewski, ICU medical director at Jackson South Medical Center in Miami.
"You know, we're putting ourselves at risk and other people aren't willing to do anything and in fact go the other way and be aggressive to promote the disease. It's really, it's really hard," he said.
Stephanie Porta, 41, a lifelong Orlando, Florida, resident, said only about half the shoppers at her grocery store wore masks, though that was more than she saw two weeks ago.
"They're trying to make everything seem normal, when it's not. People are dying, people are getting sick. It's insane," she said.
Florida on Thursday announced nearly 9,000 new cases and 120 new coronavirus deaths, a record daily increase in lives lost.
Governor Ron DeSantis called the rising cases a "blip" and urged residents not to be afraid.
"I know we've had a lot of different blips," DeSantis said. "We're now at a higher blip than where we were in May and the beginning of June."
Texas bar owners sue governor
Florida is one of the few states that does not disclose the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients. But more than four dozen Florida hospitals reported their intensive care units reached full capacity earlier this week.
In Texas a group of bar owners sued Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, saying his June 26 order closing them down violates the state constitution, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday that keeping schools closed would be a greater risk to children's health than reopening them.
California and Texas, the two most populous states, announced record increases in Covid-19 deaths on Wednesday.
California has seen cases and hospitalisations surge, even though it imposed one of the strictest lockdowns. After several lawmakers and staffers at the state Capitol in Sacramento were infected, lawmakers said the legislature would not return from summer break until July 27.
Riverside University Health System, east of Los Angeles, expanded its 44-bed intensive care unit after it filled up with patients.
"It's been very consistent every day in the last couple of weeks. Every day has been like a full moon," Riverside emergency room physician Stephanie Loe said, referring to doctors' beliefs that a full moon brings more patients to the emergency room.
Governors in California, Florida and Texas have either ruled out forced business closures and quarantines or called them a last resort. But Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned he would impose a new stay-at-home order in two weeks if the latest surge did not ease.
The rise in infections also weighed on the stock market Thursday with fears of new lockdowns, which would take a toll on the economic recovery. The Dow and the S&P 500 ended down about 1%.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)