Public health experts warn that the new cases – which they predict will spread across the U.S. in rolling, uneven waves – can further complicate efforts to rebound from the economic effects of stay-at-home measures. In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown delayed lifting restrictions after cases in the state rose, while in Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards paused the state’s effort to reopen further by at least a month following a surge in new cases.
In Florida, health officials reported 5,508 new cases on Wednesday – its highest, to date – which brought that state’s total caseload to 109,014. This makes Florida the seventh state to report over 100,000 cases, together with New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California, Texas and Massachusetts.
The state’s health department also noted an increase in the percentage of tests that came back positive – an indication that new cases were not caused by ramped-up testing. In particular, the state reported a surge in cases among younger people, with the average age of patients now at 33 years old. According to Gov. Ron DeSantis, the decreasing age of patients meant that measures to protect at-risk older adults were effective.
In a news briefing last week, the governor said that the state will continue to reopen. Going back to a lockdown, he added, is not an option.
“We’re not shutting down. We’re going to go forward … We’re not rolling back,” DeSantis added. “You have to have society function.”
The health department also issued new guidelines last weekend, which discourage meetings of more than 50 people and recommend wearing masks “in any setting.” However, DeSantis dismissed the idea of making masks mandatory across the state, saying that local communities should design these policies as they see fit.
California’s Department of Public Health reported 7,149 new cases on Wednesday – up by 69 percent from two days ago – to bring the state’s caseload to 190,222. This follows the state’s highest single-day jump on Tuesday when authorities recorded 5,019 new cases.
“We cannot continue to do what we have done over the last number of weeks,” Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters. “Many of us understandably developed a little cabin fever, some I would argue developed a little amnesia, others have frankly taken down their guard.”
California has the second-highest number of cases in the U.S. after New York. While the latter remains the epicenter of the pandemic, recent data show a decline in new cases and deaths. New Jersey, another early pandemic hotspot, fell to third place with over 169,000 cases. Officials reported an increase in new cases this week – up by over 46 percent from last week’s numbers.
The state also performed a record number of tests, with Newsom saying that the state conducted over 96,000 tests in the last 24 hours. However, the percentage of tests that came back positive also increased in the last two weeks.
“I want to remind people that we are still in the first wave of this pandemic … I want to remind each and every one of you of the importance and potency and power of your individual decision making,” Newsom added.
In addition, the state health department noted that hospitalizations increased by nearly a third, while admissions to intensive care increased 18 percent in the past two weeks. As of Tuesday, a total of 4,095 COVID-19 patients have been admitted to hospital, well below the state’s capacity of over 73,800 beds.
Newsom also made masks mandatory on Thursday, especially for residents going to public places. (Related: Coronavirus surge across America call states’ reopening plans into question.)
“We don’t want to see people fined,” the governor added.
“But we do want people to encourage others to be safe, not only for yourself but for others.”
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