Texas and Florida have clamped down on bars as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases per day in the US surged to an all-time high of 40,000.
Texas governor Greg Abbott ordered all bars to close, while Florida banned alcohol at all such establishments.
The two states joined the small but growing list of those that are either reversing or putting any further reopenings of their economies on hold because of a resurgence by the virus, mostly in the south and west of the country.
New data from our Coronavirus Resource Center shows a timeline of state social distancing policies and re-openings compared to trends in new COVID-19 cases and deaths. More here: https://t.co/HjottZHYQO— Johns Hopkins University (@JohnsHopkins) June 25, 2020
Health experts have said a disturbingly large number of cases are being seen among young people who are going out again, often without wearing masks or observing other social-distancing rules.
“It is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Abbott had pursued one of the most aggressive reopening schedules of any governor. The Republican not only resisted calls to order the wearing of masks but also refused until last week to let local governments take such measures.
Texas reported more than 17,000 new cases in the past three days, with a record high of nearly 6,000 on Thursday. In Florida, under Republican governor Ron DeSantis, the agency that regulates bars acted after the daily number of new cases neared 9,000, almost doubling the record set just two days earlier.
A number of the hardest-hit states, including Arizona and Arkansas, have Republican governors who have resisted mask-wearing requirements and have largely echoed President Donald Trump’s desire to reopen the economy quickly amid warnings the virus could come storming back.
The White House coronavirus taskforce, led by vice president Mike Pence, held its first briefing in nearly two months, signalling a recognition that the administration cannot ignore the alarming increases.
Mr Pence gave assurances that the US is “in a much better place” than it was two months ago. He said the country has more medical supplies on hand, a smaller share of patients are being admitted to hospital, and deaths are much lower than they were in the spring.
The count of new confirmed infections, provided by Johns Hopkins University, eclipsed the previous high of 36,400, set on April 24, during one of the deadliest stretches. Newly reported cases per day have risen on average by about 60% over the past two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis.
Elsewhere around the world, China moved closer to containing a fresh outbreak in Beijing. Another record daily increase in India pushed the caseload in the world’s second most populous nation towards half a million. And other countries with big populations like Indonesia, Pakistan and Mexico grappled with large numbers of infections and strained healthcare systems.
South Africa, which accounts for about half of the cases on the African continent with over 118,000, reported a record of nearly 6,600 new cases after loosening what had been one of the world’s strictest lockdowns earlier this month.