US virus hospitalisations climb as cases continue to grow

The US reported more than 47,000 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, as the percentage of people testing positive for the disease hit its highest in two months and hospitalisations continued to rise.

Almost 40,000 people are being treated in US hospitals for coronavirus, according to Covid Tracking Project, up 38 per cent from a fortnight ago. That does not include any potential patients in Florida, which does not report current hospitalisations.

Although the national increase was below recent record jumps of more than 50,000 a day, some regional leaders in the states where the virus is spreading boosted their containment efforts and urged vigilance to prevent a fresh wave of infections.

Authorities in south Florida ordered restaurants and gyms to close in the Miami region, one of the emerging coronavirus hotspots.

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 — due to reopen on Tuesday — “if we see crowding and people not following the public health rules”.

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 expanding outbreak in the southern US Sun Belt prompted the Pentagon to send 50 medical and support personnel — including respiratory specialists and emergency room nurses — to Texas, where they will be “embedding in medical care facilities” in the San Antonio area, the US military said.

Clay Jenkins, the chief elected official for Dallas county, on Monday said the region had its largest one-day increase (1,214) in hospitalisations since the pandemic began, highlighting the rising pressure on the state’s public health system.

Houston’s main hospital last week said the number of patients in its intensive care unit wards in the area surpassed normal capacity of 1,330 as it had to deal with a jump in Covid-19 patients. Almost 8,700 patients are currently hospitalised with coronavirus in Texas, more than any other US state, having overtaken California last week.

The White House on Monday continued to argue that the rise in cases was, at least in part, because of increased testing nationwide. Several of the states experiencing recent spikes, however, have seen the number of new infections rising faster than the rate of new testing.

On Twitter, Donald Trump, president, wrote that the increase was “because of massive testing” and emphasised that the spike in infections has not been accompanied by a rise in coronavirus-related deaths.

“The mortality rate for the China virus in the US is just about the lowest in the world,” Mr Trump wrote. “Also, deaths in the US are way down, a tenfold decrease since the pandemic height.”

While the number of coronavirus tests administered around the US has increased, so has the percentage of people testing positive.

Based on the almost 518,400 tests conducted over the past day, the positivity rate for the US jumped to 9.1 per cent on Monday, the highest since May 8, from 6.5 per cent a day earlier, according to Financial Times calculations using Covid Tracking Project data. On a seven-day rolling average, the per cent positive rate is 7.9 per cent, the highest since mid-May.

Florida on Monday reported 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.

California reported a one-day record of 11,529 new cases, according to the Covid Tracking Project, which pushed the nationwide daily tally on Monday to 47,375.

Although the national total was down from record highs last week, the group warned the figures were incomplete because “so many states appear to have holiday-related backlogs”. It also noted that hospitalisations continued to rise through the weekend.

The new outbreak has thus far spared north-eastern states including 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.

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