Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images
California has seen a 69% rise in coronavirus cases in just two days, governor Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday, as the state continues to battle a surge of new infections and hospitalizations.
The state has witnessed an alarming jump in cases as communities reopen from lockdown restrictions. Los Angeles county now leads the nation with more than 88,500 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Numbers have shot upward in recent days, rising from 4,230 on Sunday to 7,149 by Tuesday, according to public health data. The weekend also saw a record number of hospitalizations due to the virus. The state is currently at 30% of its ICU capacity.
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The news comes amid a surge in cases across the country, with the US recording a one-day total of 34,700 new Covid-19 cases, the highest level since late April.
Last week Newsom announced Californians must wear masks in most public settings to curb the spread of the virus, and said Wednesday that he would withhold pandemic-related funding from local governments that brush off requirements on masks and other anti-virus measures. Some parts of the state have resisted the new mask directive.
Newsom, whose press briefings on the state’s response to coronavirus have become routine, said the state has conducted more than a million tests in the past two weeks with a positivity rate of 5.1%.
Californians should expect more positives as testing increases, he said.
Amid the rising numbers, some have begun directing their anger toward public health officials. This week, Los Angeles county’s director of public health said someone casually suggested she should be shot during a Covid-19 briefing she was hosting on Facebook live.
The Centers for Disease Control has warned that the nation’s death toll could rise from 121,746 to as high as 150,000 by 18 July. New cases in the US now account for 20% of new cases in the world.
Record highs have been reported in Arizona, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma. North Carolina and South Carolina each set hospitalization records.
Texas, which began lifting lockdowns on 1 May, has seen hospitalizations double and new cases triple in two weeks.
“People got complacent,” said Dr Marc Boom, CEO of the Houston Methodist hospital system, where the number of patients tripled in the last month. “And it’s coming back and biting us, quite frankly.”
Public health experts are generally hesitant to attribute outbreaks to specific causes. In recent weeks, thousands of protestors have attended mass gatherings to protest racist policing. Warm weather has drawn people out of their homes, onto beaches and into parks. Regions have moved to reopen economies at an uneven pace, complicating a uniform approach to public health precautions.
“Californians need to remain vigilant and act responsibly,” the California governor said in a series of Wednesday tweets. “#Covid19 has not gone away. Do your part to slow the spread. Wear a mask.”
Agencies contributed reporting