(Reuters) – Warm, sunny weather in Arizona sparked crowds on at least one river this weekend, as that state and a dozen others face the worst increase in coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
People prepare to practice the Salt River tube amid the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Arizona, USA, June 27, 2020. REUTERS / Cheney Orr
Temperatures were expected to rise to more than 100 Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) on Sunday along the Salt River east of Phoenix. On Saturday, dozens of people climbed onto inflatable tubes with coolers and jumped into the water to escape the heat. Very few wore masks.
Texas closed the tubing and rafting business on Friday and some Florida beaches are closing again before the July 4 vacation next weekend to try to stem the growing outbreak in those states.
The increase in COVID-19 cases has been most pronounced in a handful of southern and western states that reopened earlier and more aggressively, despite warnings from health officials to expect to see a steady decline in the cases.
For the third consecutive day on Saturday, the number of confirmed cases in the US increased by more than 40,000, one of the largest waves in the world. In Arizona, cases have increased 267% so far in June and rose by a record 3,857 cases on Sunday, the eighth record increase this month.
Even in states where cases have been declining for weeks, outbreaks are occurring. A bar in East Lansing, Michigan, has been linked to more than 76 cases, according to the Ingham County Health Department. That number is likely to increase, officials warned.
Just a day after a note of optimism sounded about the United States’ response to the pandemic and said the country was in “a much better place,” Vice President Mike Pence canceled the events to campaign for the president’s re-election. Republican Donald Trump in Florida and Arizona due to the outbreak, campaign officials said Saturday.
In an interview with CBS, Pence said he was confident that there were sufficient health care supplies and capacity to deal with the increase in cases.
He also defended Trump’s refusal to directly ask Americans to wear masks or wear one in public, even when Texas Governor Greg Abbott and others say the widespread use of masks will be critical in order to reopen the economy.
“We believe that people should wear masks where social distancing is not possible, where directed by state or local authorities,” Pence told CBS.
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, criticized the administration’s response to the pandemic that killed more than 125,000 Americans. She told ABC News on Sunday that requiring the use of masks across the country was long overdue.
Global coronavirus cases topped 10 million on Sunday according to a Reuters count, marking a major milestone in the spread of respiratory disease that has so far killed nearly half a million people in seven months.
(GRAPH: Tracking the New Coronavirus in the US, Here)
Report by Susan Heavey in Washington; Written by Lisa Shumakmer; Editing by Daniel Wallis