New coronavirus infections across the United States almost doubled last week with 31 states reporting an uptick in cases – as Arizona became the latest hot spot to reverse its reopening by closing bars and gyms.
COVID-19 cases across the US increased by 46 percent in the week ending June 28, compared to the previous seven days, with the majority of rises occurring in the West and South of the country.
Nationally, new cases have consistently spiked every week for four straight weeks. Daily cases have been increasing to record highs in the past week – well above the initial surge of infections that were seen back in mid-April.
Infections across the US have now surpassed 2.58 million and more than 126,000 Americans have died since the virus took hold in March.
President Donald Trump has put the surge in new cases down to increased testing and has pointed to low death rates across the country as a sign that the pandemic is not out of control.
Part of the 46 percent increase in cases in the past week can be attributed to a 9 percent expansion in testing over that time frame but health experts say lack of social distancing since stay-at-home orders were lifted in most states from Memorial Day is also a factor.
While cases continues to spike, deaths are showing a downward trend across the country. Arizona, Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee were the states that saw the largest increases in deaths in the past week. In Arizona, deaths increased by 62 percent after recording 249 new fatalities in a week, bringing the death toll to 1,588.
COVID-19 cases across the US increased by 46 percent in the week ending June 28, compared to the previous seven days, with the majority of rises occurring in the West and South of the country
Health officials have warned, however, that the death rate could potentially shoot back up again because fatality rates often lag behind infection rates.
They also point to the current trend of young adults making up the majority of new cases.
Officials say people under 35 years old have been going to bars, parties and social events without masks, becoming infected and then spreading the disease to older, more vulnerable people.
In the past week, Florida, Louisiana, Idaho and Washington state have seen new infections more than double, according to a Reuters analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project.
In response to the new cases, Louisiana and Washington have temporarily halted the reopening of their economies, with Washington also mandating the wearing of face masks in public.
Florida ordered all bars to close on Friday and has shut down beaches ahead of the July 4 holiday weekend.
Arizona’s Republican governor Doug Ducey followed suit on Monday by ordering all bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks to close for at least 30 days.
The state’s cases increased 29 percent in the last week after reporting several record daily increases in cases.
Ducey also ordered public schools to delay the start of classes until at least August 17.
Most Arizona bars and nightclubs opened after the governor’s stay-at-home and business closure orders were allowed to expire in mid-May.
Large crowds of young people were spotted out as recently as Saturday tubing on Arizona’s Salt River and about 3,000 students crowded together last week for an indoor rally in Phoenix with President Trump.
Nationally, 7 percent of diagnostic tests came back positive last week, which is up from 5 percent the prior week.
Twenty-one states reported positivity test rates above the level that the World Health Organization has flagged as concerning.
The WHO considers a positivity rate above 5 percent to be a cause for concern because it suggests there are more cases in the community that have not yet been uncovered.
Officials say that if a positivity rate is too high – above 5 percent – it could indicate that the state is only testing the sickest patients and not casting a wide enough net to see how much the virus is spreading.
Arizona’s positivity test rate was 24 percent last week, Florida’s was 16 percent, and Nevada, South Carolina and Texas’s were all 15 percent, according to the analysis.
Large crowds of young people were spotted out as recently as Saturday tubing on Arizona’s Salt River. Arizona Gov Doug Ducey on Monday ordered all bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks to close for at least 30 days