US coronavirus deaths have topped 1,000 for the fourth day in a row as 18 states set single day records of infections.
A staggering 1,019 Americans were killed by the virus in the last day, topping off a dismal week with 1,140 deaths Thursday, 1,135 Wednesday and 1,141 Tuesday.
Infections rose by at least 68,800 Friday, driven by escalating outbreaks across the south and west with Arizona, California, Florida, Texas and California especially hard-hit.
More than 4.1 million people have been infected with the virus and 145,565 people have been killed.
A total of 18 states surpassed their own records for new daily infections this week, as the US looks set to break its national record of 75,697 new cases in a single day reached back on July 16.
California, South Carolina, North Dakota, Kentucky, Hawaii, Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah and West Virginia all beat their own records for daily cases, while forty states also recorded 14-day increases in infections per capita.
Florida has now joined California in overtaking former virus epicenter New York in terms of total confirmed cases.
The Sunshine State added another 12,444 cases to its tally, taking infections to 414,511, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.
California leads the way with more than 440,000 cases while New York has driven down cases after enduring one of the longest lockdowns of all states.
Governor Gavin Newsom announced new measures for the state’s nursing homes after it emerged nursing home inspectors were visiting facilities without being tested for the virus.
The shock revelation came as part of an LA Times investigation, suggesting inspectors could unwittingly infect some of the most vulnerable populations.
However despite soaring cases and deaths across the US, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr Deborah Birx insisted the worst of the crisis could be over for the hard-hit southern and western states.
‘We’re already starting to see some plateauing in these critically four states that have really suffered under the last four weeks, so Texas, California, Arizona and Florida, those major metros and throughout their counties,’ Birx told NBC news.
Birx’s comments come as federal health and education officials stressed the need to plow ahead with a return to school as soon as possible.
The American public and its leaders have been sharply divided over whether students should return to school for the fall term during the pandemic.
Birx said children under the age of 18 are typically less sick than older adults from the sometimes deadly illness but called it an ‘open question’ how readily those under 10 can spread the virus.
Donald Trump has pushed for schools to reopen, saying it is critical to the mental and emotional well-being of children and the ability of their parents to work, after business closures and ‘stay-at-home’ orders have thrown millions of Americans out of work.
The CDC issued a call to reopen schools in a statement posted on its website that listed the benefits of being in school and downplayed health risks, although it said exceptions should be made for so-called virus ‘hot spots.’
Most teachers unions, which in some states and cities have an outsized political influence especially among Democrats, have fought hard against reopenings.
The guidelines were ‘all put out with the intent to help facilitate, as was mentioned earlier, the full reopening of schools for face-to-face learning,’ said Dr Robert Redfield, the CDC’s director.
While the risk of severe COVID-19 is seen as relatively low for children, there is fear they could infect teachers and other employees.
Schools across the country are opening on different dates, with different modes of teaching – virtual instruction, in-person in classrooms, or a hybrid of both – and different or unclear expectations of how long each stage will last.