Florida reported more than 9,000 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, a day after overtaking New York as the state with the second-highest number of confirmed infections, behind only California.
The surge in cases across some of the most populous US states has also led to a sustained climb in fatalities. On Saturday, the number of deaths across the US increased by more than 1,000 for the fifth day in a row.
The 1,037 fatalities registered on Saturday, down from 1,178 a day earlier, marked the first time since May 23 that the death toll has risen by more than 1,000 for five consecutive days. It has been underpinned by the most populous states — California, Texas and Florida — which all reported record daily jumps in deaths this week.
The national uptick in deaths follows a steady increase in the daily infection count, which has topped more than 70,000 four times within the past 10 days. That rise in cases, particularly across states in the south and west, has helped push the total number of confirmed infections in the US above 4m.
On Saturday, 65,413 people tested positive across the US over the past 24 hours, according to the Covid Tracking Project, nearly 10,000 fewer than Friday’s jump. The seven-day average of new cases was 66,611, more than double the level of a month ago, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.
This weekend, Florida overtook New York in terms of total infections since the pandemic began, with more than 12,000 new cases on Saturday and 9,338 on Sunday, for a total of nearly 424,000.
It is second to only California, which on Saturday reported a further 10,066 people tested positive over the past day, taking its total to 445,400. The US’s most populous state passed New York — the early hotspot for the outbreak — with the most confirmed infections on July 22.
Texas on Saturday reported 8,112 infections, bringing its total to about 376,000. The state is on course to become the fourth in the US to tally more than 400,000 infections and will probably reach that level early in the coming week.
The number of new cases in the three most populous states remained below recent peaks, but the overall surge there and in other sunbelt states through the summer pushed the national total past 4m on July 23, an increase of 1m in just over a fortnight.
But there are worrying signs mortality rates in the sunbelt states are set to increase over the next few weeks as hospital admissions hover around levels last seen in April, when northeastern states were dealing with the worst of their crises.
Saturday’s fatality data brought the average of new deaths over the past week to 876 a day, the highest since early June, and up from the three-month low of less than 500 in early July. The number of daily fatalities nationwide had fallen as low as 209 earlier this month.
On Friday, Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus task force co-ordinator, warned the situation in California, Texas and Florida was beginning to resemble New York at the height of its outbreak and urged residents in the states to alter their behaviour.
“What we have right now are essentially three New Yorks,” Dr Birx said. “That’s why you hear us calling for masks and increased social distancing, to really stop the spread of this epidemic.”
After weeks of playing down the seriousness of the virus, Donald Trump, president. on Thursday cancelled plans to hold the bulk of the Republican national convention in Jacksonville, Florida, saying it was “not the right time” for a “big crowded convention” and that he felt it would be “wrong to have people going to what turned out to be a hotspot”.