As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States climbed by nearly 55,000 on Thursday — the largest daily increase any country has reported — Texas moved to make face masks mandatory in public in counties with more than 20 cases.
Under a statewide order, Gov. Greg Abbott also gave local authorities the power to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people in Texas, where coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations have been spiking.
The governor has resisted calls from local leaders for more than two months to force everyone in Texas to wear masks.
The order comes as figures show the infection curve rising in 40 out of 50 states in a reversal that has largely spared only the Northeast. The number of cases of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, rose in Texas on Thursday by a near-record 7,915 for a total of 175,977, the state’s health department said.
In yet another alarming indicator, 36 states are seeing a rise in the percentage of tests that are coming back positive for the virus.
The surge has been blamed in part on Americans not wearing masks or following other physical distancing rules as states were lifting their lockdowns over the past few weeks.
The U.S. has recorded 54,879 new cases, according to a Reuters tally late Thursday, topping the previous single-day record of 54,771 set by Brazil on June 19.
Just two weeks ago, the U.S. was reporting about 22,000 new cases a day. It has now reported more than 40,000 cases for seven straight days and broken records for new cases three days in a row, according to the tally.
The U.S. now has nearly 2.73 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and has recorded 128,684 deaths, the highest toll in the world, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
All but 10 states are showing an increase in newly confirmed cases over the past 14 days, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer organization that collects testing information. The outbreaks are most severe in Arizona, Texas and Florida, which together with California have re-closed or otherwise clamped back down on bars, restaurants and movie theatres.
Nebraska and South Dakota were the only states outside the Northeast with a downward trend in cases. Governors of U.S. states hit hardest by the resurgent coronavirus halted or reversed steps to reopen their economies on Wednesday, led by California, the nation’s most populous state and a new epicentre of the pandemic.