Virus Updates: As US Tops 2.5M Cases, Pence Cancels Arizona, Florida Events

Health experts in the U.S. have said a disturbingly large number of cases are being seen among young people who are going out again

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Two of America's largest states have reversed course and clamped down on bars again in the nation's biggest retreat yet as the daily number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the U.S. surged Friday to an all-time high of 45,300.

Total cases in the US reached 2,501,861 on Saturday, with 25,929 deaths reported.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered all bars closed, while Florida banned alcohol at such establishments. The two states joined a small but growing number that are either backtracking or putting any further reopening of their economies on hold because of a comeback by the virus, mostly in the country's South and West.

Health experts have said a disturbingly large number of cases are being seen among young people who are going out again, often without wearing masks or observing other social-distancing rules.

“It is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” Abbott said.

The Republican governor, who had pursued one of the most aggressive reopening schedules of any state, also scaled back restaurant capacity and said outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people would need approval from local officials.

Florida, Texas and California have seen an explosion in new cases over the past few days, breaking daily records in new cases reported by state. The first coronavirus task force briefing in nearly two months resumes this afternoon.

In Florida, the agency that regulates bars acted after the daily number of new confirmed cases neared 9,000, almost doubling the record set just two days earlier.

Colleen Corbett, a 30-year-old bartender at two places in Tampa, said that she was disappointed and worried about being unemployed again but that the restrictions are the right move. Most customers were not wearing masks, she said.

"It was like they forgot there was a pandemic or just stopped caring," Corbett said.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez in Florida's Miami-Dade county announced Friday night he would close beaches over the Fourth of July weekend. He said cracking down on recreational activities is prudent given the growing number of infections among young adults.

A number of the hardest-hit states, including Florida and Arizona, have Republican governors who have resisted mask-wearing requirements and largely echoed President Donald Trump’s desire to reopen the economy quickly despite warnings the virus could come storming back.

Vice President Mike Pence has called off campaign events in Florida and Arizona for this coming week as the states experience a surge in new coronavirus cases. The White House says Pence will still travel to those states to meet with their governors and health teams.

Florida and Arizona have set records for new confirmed infections in recent days. Pence is traveling to Dallas on Sunday to attend a "Celebrate Freedom Rally" at First Baptist Church Dallas before meeting with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. But political events in Arizona on Tuesday and Florida on Thursday have been pushed off.

The White House coronavirus task force, led by the Vice President, held its first briefing in nearly two months Friday, and Pence gave assurances that the U.S. is "in a much better place" than it was two months ago.

He said the country has more medical supplies on hand, a smaller share of patients are being hospitalized, and deaths are much lower than they were in the spring.

The count of new confirmed infections, provided by Johns Hopkins University, eclipsed the previous high of 40,000 set the previous day. Newly reported cases per day have risen on average about 60% over the past two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis.

While the rise partly reflects expanded testing, experts say there is ample evidence the scourge is making a comeback, including rising deaths and hospitalizations in parts of the country and higher percentages of virus tests coming back positive.

About 600 people are dying every day from the coronavirus in the U.S., down from a peak of around 2,200 in mid-April. Some experts doubt that deaths will return to that level, because of advances in treatment and prevention and because younger adults are more likely than older ones to survive.

The virus is blamed for about 125,000 deaths and nearly 2.5 million confirmed infections nationwide, by Johns Hopkins' count. But health officials believe the true number of infections is about 10 times higher. Worldwide, the virus has claimed close to a half-million lives.

Louisiana reported its second one-day spike of more than 1,300 cases this week. The increasing numbers led Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards to suspend further easing of restrictions. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey did the same in Arizona, where cases are topping 3,000 a day and 85% of hospital beds are occupied.

But Republican Gov. Bill Lee has been reluctant to reinstate restrictions or call for a mask mandate in Tennessee, which reported its biggest one-day jump in infections for the second time in a week, with more than 1,400,

In a reversal of fortune, New York said it is offering equipment and other help to Arizona, Texas and Florida, noting that other states came to its aid when it was in the throes of the deadliest outbreak in the nation this spring.

"We will never forget that graciousness, and we will repay it any way we can," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Stocks fell sharply on Wall Street over the surging case numbers. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 730 points, or nearly 3%.

In Asia, a large increase pushed India over half a million cases, the fourth highest in the world, while China and South Korea battled smaller outbreaks in their capitals.

India reported more than 18,000 new cases Saturday, pushing its cumulative total over the half-million mark, the fourth highest globally behind the U.S., Brazil and Russia. Elsewhere, Egypt and Britain said they would ease virus controls, while China and South Korea battled smaller outbreaks in their capitals.

Cairo's cafes welcomed back in-house customers Saturday as Egypt reopened cafes, clubs, gyms and theaters after more than three months of closures. Wearing face masks, the faithful poured into mosques for dawn prayers, though mosques and churches are not yet allowed to hold their main weekly services.

China saw an uptick in cases, one day after authorities said they expect an outbreak in Beijing to be brought under control in the near future. The National Health Commission reported 17 new cases in the nation's capital, the most in a week, among 21 nationwide.

South Korea, where a resurgence in the past month threatens to erase the country’s earlier success, reported 51 new cases including 35 in the Seoul metropolitan area. Officials, worried about the fragile economy, have resisted calls to reimpose restrictions eased in April.

Britain was expected to scrap a 14-day quarantine requirement for people returning from abroad in a bid to make summer vacation travel possible. Only travelers from “red’’ zones, places with a high level of COVID-19, will be told to self-isolate. A full list of countries, due to be published next week, is likely to give Spain, Greece and France a green light.

Australia braced for more imported cases as citizens return home. About 300 people were due to arrive this weekend from Mumbai, India, with others expected to follow from South America and Indonesia. One state health official said he is preparing for 5% to 10% of the returnees to be infected, based on arrivals from Indonesia in other states.

Smith reported from Providence, Rhode Island. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

AP, Staff
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