New coronavirus cases in US hotspots waned on Monday, although the encouraging signs have not allayed fears that the disease is gaining a foothold in other parts of the country.
Florida — one of the populous US sunbelt states where the virus has surged in recent weeks — reported fewer than 5,000 new infections on Monday, the lowest increase since June, and 73 fatalities. The state had shuttered some of its testing sites at the weekend as Isaias, the tropical storm, moved up its coast.
Other states in the south and west where the disease had been surging earlier this summer continued to show signs of slowing. California, which became the first US state to register more than 500,000 cases, reported 5,739 new infections on Monday, the smallest increase since early July. Texas had 5,839 new cases in the past 24 hours.
Arizona registered slightly more than 1,000 new cases, the lowest since late June. Georgia counted the least new cases of coronavirus in nearly a month, 2,258.
Cases reported on a Monday tend to be lower than on other days of the week because of delays over the weekend. However, the data point to encouraging signs that steps taken to mitigate the recent wave have started to pay off.
US President Donald Trump hailed signs of “significant progress” on Monday, while urging people in states with a low number of cases to remain vigilant and continue taking precautions to curb its spread.
But experts have warned that as lockdowns start to ease and Americans begin socialising and travelling, the disease has become more prevalent, potentially sowing the seeds of a spike in states that have not been previously hard hit, including the Midwest.
Deborah Birx, a top member of the White House coronavirus task force, said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that the US was entering a “new phase” of the pandemic.
“What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread . . . it’s more widespread and it’s both rural and urban,” Dr Birx said.
Her appearance drew a rebuke from Mr Trump, who accused her of trying to “hit” the administration in response to criticism from Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, that she was being too optimistic.
White House task force members have pointed to worrying signals that could portend a surge of cases in states including Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Even in the north-east US — which was most heavily affected by the pandemic during its early months, before appearing to wrestle it under control — concerns were growing about a resurgence in the densely populated region.
New Jersey on Monday renewed curbs on indoor gatherings, owing to a rise in new coronavirus cases and the disease’s infection rate in recent weeks.
Governor Phil Murphy on Monday said Covid-19’s rate of transmission in his state was now 1.48, compared with 0.87 a month ago, meaning each new confirmed case of the disease was leading to more than one additional infection.
“We believe that some of this increase is attributable to the number of indoor house parties we’ve been seeing across the state. Indoor gatherings are not safe,” he said on Twitter.
Massachusetts’ governor last week said he was considering reducing the number of people allowed to gather after identifying several potential coronavirus clusters linked to social events, including house parties and graduation celebrations.
New York, one of the worst-hit states in the pandemic’s early weeks, has required visitors from numerous states to quarantine upon arrival. “The national situation is getting worse. That’s a fact,” New York governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.
In all but five states — Arizona, Maine, New Hampshire, Utah and Vermont — the seven-day average of new cases was higher at the end of July than it was a month earlier, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.