US virus cases near an all-time high as governors backtrack

US virus cases near an all-time high as governors backtrack

NEW YORK — The coronavirus crisis deepened in Arizona on Thursday, and the governor of Texas began to backtrack after making one of the most aggressive pushes in the nation to reopen, as the daily number of confirmed cases across the U.S. closed in on the peak reached during the dark days of late April.

While greatly expanded testing probably accounts for some of the increase, experts say other measures indicate the virus is making a comeback. Daily deaths, hospitalizations and the percentage of tests that are coming back positive also have been rising over the past few weeks in parts of the country, mostly in the South and West.

In Arizona, 23% of tests conducted over the past seven days have been positive, nearly triple the national average, and a record 415 patients were on ventilators. Mississippi saw its daily count of new cases reach record highs twice this week.

“It’s not a joke. Really bad things are going to happen,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s health officer.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, whose state was among the first to reopen, put off lifting any more restrictions and reimposed a ban on elective surgeries in some places to preserve hospital space after the number of patients statewide more than doubled in two weeks. Nevada’s governor ordered face masks be worn in public, Las Vegas casinos included.

“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” Abbott said.

The U.S. reported 34,500 COVID-19 cases Wednesday, slightly fewer than the day before but still near the high of 36,400 reached on April 24, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. The daily average has climbed by more than 50% over the past two weeks, an Associated Press analysis found.

Whether the rise in cases translates into an equally dire surge in deaths across the U.S. will depend on a number of factors, experts said, most crucially whether government officials make the right decisions. Deaths per day nationwide are around 600 after peaking at about 2,200 in mid-April.

“It is possible, if we play our cards badly and make a lot of mistakes, to get back to that level. But if we are smart, there’s no reason to get to 2,200 deaths a day,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute.

The nation’s daily death toll has actually dropped markedly over the past few weeks even as cases climbed, a phenomenon experts said may reflect the advent of treatments, better efforts to prevent infections at nursing homes, and a rising proportion of cases among younger people, who are more likely than their elders to survive a bout with COVID-19.

“This is still serious,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but “we’re in a different situation today than we were in March or April.”

Several states set single-day case records this week, including Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma. Florida reported over 5,000 new cases for a second day in a row.

Mississippi’s Dobbs blamed a failure to wear masks and observe other social-distancing practices.

“I’m afraid it’s going to take some kind of catastrophe for people to pay attention,” he said. “We are giving away those hard-fought gains for silly stuff.”

Tom Rohlk, a 62-year-old grocery store worker from Overland Park, Kansas, complained that young people sometimes act as if they don’t care: “It seems like it’s time to party.”

The U.S. has greatly ramped up testing in the past few months, and it is now presumably finding many less-serious cases that would have gone undetected earlier in the outbreak, when testing was limited and often focused on sicker people.

But there are other more clear-cut warning signs, including a rising number of deaths per day in states such as Arizona and Alabama.

The number of confirmed infections, in itself, is a poor measure of the outbreak. CDC officials, relying on blood tests, estimated Thursday that 20 million Americans have been infected. That is about 6% per cent of the population and roughly 10 times the 2.3 million confirmed cases.

Officials have long known that many cases have been missed because of testing gaps and a lack of symptoms in some infected people.

Worldwide, over 9.5 million people have been confirmed infected, and nearly a half-million have died, including over 122,000 in the U.S., the world’s highest toll, by Johns Hopkins’ count.

“Globally, it’s still getting worse,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

While some states impose new restrictions or pause their reopenings, some businesses also are backing off. Disney delayed its mid-July reopening of Disneyland.

As politicians try to strike a balance between public health and the economy, the government reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week declined slightly to 1.48 million, indicating layoffs are slowing but still painfully high.

Elsewhere around the world, Paris’ Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors after its longest peacetime closure: 104 days.

With hospitals overwhelmed in New Delhi, Indian troops provided care in railroad cars converted to medical wards.

And in China, where the virus first appeared late last year, an outbreak in Beijing appeared to have been brought under control.

___

Johnson reported from Washington state. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

___

Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

Jennifer Peltz And Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

Ma & Paws Pet Supplies. Facebook/ Ma & Paws Pet Supplies.
Rimbey residents petition for dog park

Request for approval of dog park will be brought up at Tuesday Oct. 27 Town Council meeting.

The future site of the Rimbey Travel Centre. Web photo
New Rimbey development aims to capitalize on highway traffic

Phase I of the Rimbey Travel Centre would be along Hwy. 20, if approved

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

soup
Rimbey FCSS to introduce the Cultural Community Kitchen

The Cultural Community Kitchen sessions will be held at the Rimbey Co-op

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Most Read