Alarming surges in coronavirus cases across the U.S. raised fears Monday that the outbreak is spiralling out of control and that hard-won progress against the scourge is slipping away because of resistance among many Americans to wearing masks and staying away from others.
Confirming predictions that the easing of state lockdowns over the past month-and-a-half could lead to a comeback by the virus, cases surpassed 100,000 in Florida, hospitalizations are rising dramatically in Houston, and a startling one in five of those tested in Arizona are proving to be infected.
Over the weekend, the virus seemed to be everywhere at once: Six staff members helping set up for President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Okla., tested positive, as did 23 Clemson University football players in South Carolina.
At least 30 members of the Louisiana State University team were isolated after becoming infected or coming into contact with someone who was. Meatpacking plants were also hit with outbreaks.
PHOTOS | COVID-19 precautions at Tulsa Trump rally:
“It is snowballing. We will most certainly see more people die as a result of this spike,” said Dr. Marc Boom, CEO and president of Houston Methodist Hospital, noting that the number of COVID-19 hospital admissions has tripled since Memorial Day to more than 1,400 across eight hospital systems in the Houston metropolitan area.
He predicted that in three weeks hospitals could be overwhelmed, and he pleaded with people to cover their faces and practise social distancing.
“It is possible to open up at a judicious pace and coexist with the virus, but it requires millions and millions of people to do the right thing. Right now, we don’t have that” because people have let their guard down, Boom said.
Texas is among a number of states — including Arizona, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina — whose governors have resisted statewide mask requirements, leaving the matter to local authorities.
In Orlando, 152 coronavirus cases were linked to one bar near the University of Central Florida campus, said Dr. Raul Pino, a state health officer in the resort city.
“A lot of transmission happened there,” Pino said. “People are very close. People are not wearing masks. People are drinking, shouting, dancing, sweating, kissing and hugging, all the things that happen in bars. And all those things that happen are not good for COVID-19.”
Although he asked health officials to renew calls for people to wear masks and keep their distance, Gov. Ron DeSantis has not signalled he will retreat from reopening the state after three months of shutdowns that have damaged the economy.
In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards weighed whether to proceed with any further loosening of restrictions amid a spike in cases. Some businesses have closed again because of infections among staff members or patrons. And a cluster of bars near LSU reported at least 100 customers and employees tested positive.
Arizona, in particular, is seeing disturbing trends in several benchmarks, including the percentage of tests that prove positive for the virus. Arizona’s is the highest in the nation.
The state’s positive test rate is at a seven-day average of over 20 per cent, well above the national average of 8.4 per cent and the 10 per cent level that public health officials say is a problem. When the positive test rate rises, it means that an outbreak is worsening — not just that more people are getting tested.
At Maryland’s Fort Washington Medical Center on the outskirts of the nation’s capital, workers described a scramble to find new beds, heartbreaking encounters with family members of critically ill patients and their frustration with Americans who do not believe the coronavirus threat is real.
Meanwhile, New York City, once the most lethal hot spot in the U.S., lifted more of its restrictions, moving a big step closer to normal. Restaurants can serve diners outdoors, customers can browse through stores and get a haircut, and children can return to playgrounds.
In Illinois, museums, gyms and zoos can reopen on Friday with restrictions. Indoor dining can resume at 25 per cent capacity, and some places, such as the Lincoln Park Zoo, will require reservations.
Worldwide, more than nine million people have been confirmed infected by the virus and about 470,000 have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, though experts say the actual numbers are much higher because of limited testing and cases in which patients had no symptoms.
What’s happening with COVID-19 in Canada
As of 7 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada had 101,637 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with the majority in Quebec and Ontario. Of those cases, 64,334 of the cases were listed as resolved or recovered. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial information, regional health data and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,481.
Ontario reported 161 new cases on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in that province to 33,637 with 2,647 deaths.
Quebec reported 69 new cases, bringing the total number of cases there to 54,835 with 5,417 deaths. The daily figure is the lowest Quebec has seen since March 21, and the first time Quebec has had no new deaths to report since March 17, when the province reported its first COVID-19-related death.
What’s happening around the world
India reported a record number 14,516 new cases on Monday and the deaths of more than 400 people in the past 24 hours.
Nearly 14,000 people have died from the disease caused by the virus since India’s first case in January. The death toll there remains low when compared to countries with similar numbers of cases but public health experts fear its hospitals will be unable to cope with a rise in cases.
Despite the peak of infections projected to be weeks if not months away Prime Minister Narendra Modi relaxed most curbs of a near three-month lockdown on June 8 in order to ease economic pain.
Brazil recorded 21,432 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours as well as 654 new deaths resulting from the disease, the country’s health ministry said on Monday.
Brazil has registered 1.1 million cases since the pandemic began, while cumulative deaths reached 51,271, according to the ministry.
That places the South American country second in infections and deaths in the world behind the U.S.
WATCH | Brazil deeply affected by COVID-19 due to high population, WHO says:
Africa’s reported cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 300,000 as the spread of the disease quickens across the continent.
The Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday the continent now has 306,567 confirmed cases, including 8,115 deaths and 146,212 recoveries. It took more than 90 days for Africa’s 54 countries to reach 100,000 cases, 19 days to reach 200,000 and now 12 days to go above 300,000. The actual number of cases is believed to be much higher because testing across the continent is low.
South Africa, with 97,302 cases, accounts for nearly a third of the continent’s total cases. The country had initially hoped it could control the disease through testing and tracing. But despite conducting more than 1.3 million tests, the highest number in Africa, it currently takes an average of 12 days to get results, which medical experts say is much too long to do any effective tracking and quarantining.