MIAMI (AP) — Florida’s most-populous county ordered restaurants and gyms closed again Monday because of a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, as the U.S. emerged from what health officials said was a make-or-break Fourth of July weekend of picnics, pool parties and beach outings.
The see-saw effect — restrictions lifted, then reversed after a resurgence of cases — has been seen around the U.S. in recent weeks and is expected again after a long holiday that saw party-goers and sunbathers gathering, many without masks, on one of the biggest weekends of the summer.
Confirmed cases are on the rise in 41 out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is increasing in 39 states.
Florida, which recorded an all-time high of 11,400 cases Saturday and has seen its positive test rate over the past two weeks reach more than 18%, has been especially hard hit, along with other Sunbelt states such as Arizona, California and Texas.
In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, population 2.7 million, Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued an emergency order closing restaurants and certain other indoor places, seven weeks after they were allowed to reopen.
“We want to ensure that our hospitals continue to have the staffing necessary to save lives,” Gimenez said in a statement.
Hair salons and stores will remain open along with hotel pools and summer camps. Beaches will reopen in the county on Tuesday after they being closed over the weekend.
“But if we see crowding and people not following the public health rules, I will be forced to close the beaches again,” the mayor warned.
The coronavirus is blamed for over a half-million deaths worldwide, including more than 130,000 in the U.S., according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed cases in the U.S. stood at about 2.9 million, though the real number of infections is believed to be 10 times higher.
Over the past few days, new cases per day nationwide have hit record levels well over 50,000. On average, the daily count has surged more than 80% over the past two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis.
Amid the rise in cases, average deaths per day have fallen over the same period from around 600 to about 510, reflecting what experts say are advances in treatment and prevention and the fact that a large number of those getting sick are young adults, more likely than older ones to survive COVID-19.
But deaths are considered a lagging indicators — that is, it takes time for people to get sick and die. And experts are worried that the downward trend in deaths could reverse itself.
Meanwhile, three of the top U.S. medical organizations issued an open letter urging Americans to wear masks, social distance and wash hands often to help stop “the worst public health crisis in generations.”
The American Medical Association, American Nurses Association and American Hospital Association issued the plea in the absence of a mask-wearing order from Washington and said steps taken early on that helped slow the spread of COVID-19 “were too quickly abandoned.”
The White House again rejected calls for a nationwide order to wear face coverings. Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that President Donald Trump sees the issue as a state matter.
“We’re allowing our local governors and our local mayors to weigh in on that,” he said.
In New York City, once the most lethal hot spot in the country, nail salons and dog runs were allowed to reopen but indoor dining was postponed indefinitely.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said about 50,000 more people will come back to work as the city enters Phase 3 of reopening, covering tattoo parlors, indoor tanning and sports such as basketball, volleyball and handball.
“It will be more of summer again because we did this hard work to get this far and we cannot let up now,” he said.
In Massachusetts, casinos, gyms, movie theaters and museums were among the businesses allowed to reopen, but things will look different, with capacity restricted and face coverings and frequent cleanings required.