Texas cities have begun issuing curfews and stay-at-home orders again after bars in the state were forced to close on Friday for a second time amid a surge in coronavirus cases, as the number of new infections in the US hits an all-time high.
The US recorded 45,242 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the largest single-day increase of the pandemic after at least five states including Florida, Utah, Tennessee, Georgia and Idaho saw record spikes.
Underscoring the worsening spread of the virus, Florida this morning reported 9,585 new infections in the last 24 hours, marking a record high for a second day, and 24 additional deaths.
The US death toll is now over 125,000, the highest in the world, with a total of 2.48million confirmed cases.
President Trump headed to one of his golf courses in Virginia today after cancelling a trip to New Jersey to ‘make sure law and order is enforced’ in Washington, D.C.
Last night, the Commander-in-chief tweeted that he would be postponing a visit to his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey amid anti-police protests that have roiled the nation’s capital.
However, that didn’t stop the POTUS from hitting the green at another of his courses closer to the White House – with his motorcade seen snaking in to the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, just outside of DC late this morning.
The golfing expedition was the 271st of Trump’s presidency.
Trump’s SUV was met with a small number of protesters who had gathered outside the premises brandishing signs – including one which read ‘Trump makes me sick’.
Not only is Trump facing ongoing protests calling for police reform and defunding – the coronavirus crisis is also worsening across much of the United States.
The new record for positive COVID-19 tests came as Texas and other states at the center of a new surge in infections took steps back from efforts to ease restrictions on businesses, threatening a hoped-for economic recovery and jobs.
In a reversal of his early moves to relax restrictions, Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Friday ordered bars across the state to close and required restaurants to limit indoor seating capacity to 50 per cent, after having reopened in May.
He also said rafting and tubing outfitters on Texas’ popular rivers must close and that outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more must be approved by local governments.
Local governments within the state have since begun imposing restrictions again to curb the spread of the virus as cases continue to surge.
In Galena Park, a small city of 10,000 people on the outskirts of Houston, officials have implemented a curfew starting on Saturday night that will run from 10pm to 5am daily.
Mayor Esmeralda Moya she was heeding a warning from Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who on Friday raised the public threat level to its most severe, a sign people should shelter at home.
‘It is crucial to continue to practice good hygiene, stay home as much as possible, avoid unnecessary trips, gatherings, and wear a face-covering at all times when you leave your home,’ Moya said.
Further south in Hidalgo County, located just above the Mexican border, officials imposed a curfew from 10pm to 6am and restricted mass gatherings to groups of ten or less on Thursday.
County Judge Richard F. Cortez said the decision comes amid a ‘concerning’ number of new infections and residents neglecting coronavirus health measures.
‘It appears that despite the rise in infections, that residents have not taken proper precautions in protecting their friends and family from this disease,’ Cortez said in a release.
Texas reported more than 17,000 new cases in the past three days, with a record high of 5,996 on Thursday followed by another 5,707 on Friday.
Governor Greg Abbott gave bars in Texas until midday on Friday to close down. Texas had been at the forefront of states peeling away restrictions designed to control the deadly pandemic and kickstart their economies again.
Abbott allowed bars to reopen in May when revelers flouting social distancing rules celebrated Memorial Day weekend
The second-largest state also sets records daily for hospitalizations, surpassing 5,000 coronavirus patients for the first time Friday.
Until now, Abbott had pursued one of the most aggressive reopening schedules of any governor.
The Republican not only resisted calls to order masks be worn but also refused until last week to let local governments take such measures.
‘The doctors told us at the time, and told anyone who would listen, this will be a disaster. And it has been,’ said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, a Democrat who is the county’s top official.
Florida, another state that reopened its economy relatively quickly, also ordered bar owners to immediately stop serving alcohol on their premises on Friday after the daily number of new confirmed cases neared 9,000, almost doubling the record set just two days earlier.
In total, Florida has 132,545 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 3,390 coronavirus-related deaths so far.
Governor Ron DeSantis has been lifting restrictions more slowly than a task force recommended but has allowed theme parks to reopen, encouraged professional sports to come to Florida and pushed for the GOP convention to be held in the Sunshine State.
He joined other Republicans who claimed the uptick has come from an increase in testing.
However, the Miami Herald reports that through June 3, new cases had consistently trended upwards since mid-May, and the influx could not be attributed solely to increased testing.
DeSantis also blamed new cases on ‘overwhelmingly Hispanic laborers,’ because of migrant workers forced to live and work in cramped conditions.
Farm workers’ associations hit back at the governor, saying he has repeatedly ignored their pleas to help the vulnerable demographic.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced plans to issue an emergency order closing down the county’s beaches during the Fourth of July weekend.
Gimenez warned that he may extend the shutdown if ‘conditions do not improve and people do not follow New Normal rules requiring masks to be worn always inside commercial establishments and outdoors when social distancing of at least 6 feet is not possible,’ in a statement about the order.
The mayor claimed he had seen both businesses and people ignoring safety measures against infection.
‘If people are not going to be responsible and protect themselves and others from this pandemic, then the government is forced to step in and restore common sense to save lives,’ Gimenez said.
His order, he said, will follow Centers for Disease Control recommendations and also ban gatherings, including parades, of more than 50 people in Miami-Dade ‘for whatever reason from July 3 to 7.’
He explained that ‘in those situations,’ masks and social distancing are required and five groups of no more than 10 people will be allowed.
His order also will impact fireworks viewing in celebration of the Fourth of July.
‘All parks and beaches will be closed to the public in all cities and unincorporated areas of the county to public viewing of fireworks. Fireworks displays must be viewed from one’s home or parked vehicle,’ he said.
Coronavirus cases are climbing rapidly among young adults in a number of states where bars, stores and restaurants have reopened.
Young people have started going out again, many without masks, in what health experts see as irresponsible behavior.
Health officials have warned that while deaths appear to be declining, it could potentially shoot back up again because fatality rates often lag behind infection rates.
The turnaround from Abbott came soon after he announced on Thursday that he was halting elective surgeries in the largest counties and said the state would ‘pause’ its aggressive reopening weeks after he began lifting restrictions.
Arizona Gov Doug Ducey, also a Republican, is also telling residents to stay home and on Thursday declared the state was ‘on pause’ as hospitals accelerate toward capacity.
The number of infections in Arizona surged again on Thursday with just over 3,000 new cases reported. In Arizona, 23 percent of tests conducted over the past seven days have been positive, nearly triple the national average.
There are currently 4,400 people hospitalized in the state with coronavirus and 1,400 of those are in ICU beds. A record 415 patients are on ventilators in the state.
Arizona is nearing hospital bed capacity with 88 percent of ICU beds occupied as of Thursday.
In Arizona, Ducey had resisted pressure to close restaurants as the virus first spread back in March, saying the state wasn’t seeing explosive growth like New York and didn’t need to act so aggressively. The Democratic mayors of Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff and elsewhere imposed their own restrictions.
The governor responded with an executive order closing restaurants in counties with known coronavirus infections but also defining some businesses cities couldn’t restrict, including golf courses.
Last week, under extreme pressure to act as COVID-19 cases soar, Ducey gave local leaders the power to require masks, while avoiding making it a statewide mandate.
The numbers ‘continue to go in the wrong direction,’ Ducey said on Thursday.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has warned of another potential lockdown due to surging cases in his state. He said he would only shut down businesses again if the health care system became seriously strained.
In California, 5,349 new cases were reported on Thursday – down from the record 7,100 new cases a day earlier. Hospitalizations have also reached record highs across the state with about 1,500 suspected or confirmed patients requiring intensive care.
While Newsom said part of the rise was due to testing, much is the result of people failing to engage in safe practices when gathering with friends and family, or visiting newly reopened businesses.
Los Angeles County now has the most cases of all US counties with more than 85,000 confirmed infections. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti this week urged residents to stay home and wear masks while out in public.
As an alarming coronavirus resurgence sets records for confirmed cases and hospitalizations across the South and West, governors are retreating to measures they once resisted and striking a more urgent tone.
‘I think they’re going to have to,’ said Dr Mark McClellan, former head of the Food and Drug Administration. ‘It doesn’t take most people in a community getting sick to overwhelm health care systems.’