Authorities in south Florida have ordered restaurants and gyms to close in the Miami region, one of the emerging coronavirus hotspots in the recent US outbreak that has seen in a spike in new cases and hospitalisations.
Carlos Gimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade county, announced the reversal of reopening plans on Monday after a weekend in which Florida recorded back-to-back days of more than 10,000 new cases, some of the highest totals since New York suffered similar tallies early in the outbreak.
Restaurants, except for takeout and delivery services, along with ballrooms, party venues, gyms, fitness centres and short-term rentals have been ordered to close by Wednesday, and Mr Gimenez warned the reversal may extend to the region’s famous beaches “if we see crowding and people not following the public health rules”.
Under current plans, Miami’s beaches are due to reopen on Tuesday. Office buildings, retail and grooming services “will remain open for now”, Mr Gimenez added.
The move by Miami-Dade county, which includes the city of Miami and is Florida’s most populous with 2.8m residents, comes as Ron DeSantis, the state’s governor, has resisted more stringent statewide measures following his decision to close bars at the end of June.
The White House on Monday continued to argue that the rise in cases was, at least in part, due to increased testing nationwide. Several of the states experiencing recent spikes, however, have seen the number of new cases rising faster than the rate of new testing.
“When you start to look at the stats, and look at all the numbers that we have, the amount of testing that we have, the vast majority of people are safe from this,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, told Fox News, arguing that fatalities have been limited to the elderly and Americans with “co-morbidities” — other underlining health problems.
“Outside of that, the risks are extremely low,” Mr Meadows added.
On Monday, Florida reported that another 6,336 people had tested positive over the past 24 hours, taking the total number of cases in Florida since the pandemic began to 206,447 — 150,000 of which have been recorded since the start of June.
Although Florida’s daily tally was significantly lower than the number of cases recorded at the weekend, reporting lags tend to cause undercounting on Mondays. California recorded 5,699, which is also lower than recent records.
Arizona, another one of the US sunbelt states to suffer a recent spike, reported 3,352 new cases on Monday, in line with daily totals over the course of the last week.
The new outbreak has thus far spared north-eastern states like New York and New Jersey, which bore the brunt of the March wave and have been slower to reopen.
But governors of both states remain on edge, with New York’s Andrew Cuomo on Monday angrily lashing out at revellers who crowded beaches near New York City over the July 4 weekend without regard to guidance on distancing or face masks.
Phil Murphy, the New Jersey governor, said the state’s transmission rate had exceeded 1.0 for the first time in 10 weeks; a level over 1.0 means each person with the virus is, on average, passing it on to more than one other victim, helping infections accelerate.
“This is an early warning sign that, quite frankly, we need to do more,” he added. Several recent New Jersey outbreaks have been tied to out-of-state hotspots. Ravinder Bhalla, mayor of Hoboken, said 12 of 13 cases diagnosed late last week had been directly tied to travel from elsewhere.