Florida and Texas reported record numbers of new Covid-19 infections on Saturday, as a nationwide surge in cases forced the cancellation of many Independence Day celebrations — with the exception of two fireworks displays hosted by Donald Trump.
A further 11,458 people in Florida tested positive over the previous 24 hours, the state’s health department reported on Saturday morning. This was a record for the state, which has seen a spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
It was the second-highest one-day increase of any state other than New York, which reported a daily increase of 11,571 on April 15 during the depths of its public health crisis, according to Financial Times analysis of data from the Covid Tracking Project.
Texas reported 8,258 new cases on Saturday, a one-day record for the state. California reported 6,510 new cases, in line with the past few days, while Arizona reported a slight improvement with an additional 2,695 infections.
The coronavirus outbreak has worsened across America’s “Sun Belt” — notably in Florida, California, Texas, Arizona and Georgia — in recent weeks. The surge has forced many states to reverse efforts to reopen their economies.
The US leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases, followed by Brazil and Russia, according to Johns Hopkins University data that shows the number of cases globally now tops 11m. The UK leads in Europe, with more than 286,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins. Pubs, restaurants and hairdressers reopened in England on Saturday.
The US reported its highest one-day total for new Covid-19 cases on Friday, a day before the July 4 holiday, which commemorates the 1776 signing of the Declaration of Independence.
But the pandemic did not stop Mr Trump from marking the occasion with a celebration at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday night, and another on the White House lawn on Saturday. Most people at the events appeared not to wear face masks, despite the warnings of public health officials.
Standing in front of the sculpture of American presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, Mr Trump delivered a divisive political speech in which he denounced a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history” by what he described as “far-left fascism”.
“Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities,” the president added.
The president arrived back at the White House in the early hours of Saturday morning, ahead of a July 4 celebration in Washington that evening, where he delivered a similar message.
The event was held despite the objections of public health officials and Muriel Bowser, the Democratic mayor of Washington, DC.
Because the celebration was held on federal, rather than city, land, Ms Bowser does not have jurisdiction over the event. But she warned about the public health risks of such a large gathering at a time when local regulations encourage people to continue social distancing and avoid gathering in confined spaces with more than 50 people.
The US interior department said more than 300,000 cloth face coverings would be available and distributed to visitors on the National Mall.
The Trump campaign announced on Saturday morning that it would “employ aerial advertising” in 13 places across the US over the holiday weekend, with planes flying “Keep America Great Again” banners above popular beaches.
“President Trump respects the American flag and is standing up for our nation’s great history,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the president’s re-election bid. “This Independence Day, Team Trump will fly banners across the country to remind Americans that President Trump will always defend the freedom and liberty that we all enjoy.”