Kayenta Health Center staff prepare to practice with a new shield that just arrived to help protect medical workers when they intubate patients, in Kayenta, Ariz.
Carolyn Kaster | AP
Arizona, Florida and California all reported record-high single-day increases in coronavirus cases on Thursday as testing increases and the virus spreads throughout new communities.
Arizona health officials reported 2,519 confirmed cases on Thursday, surpassing the previous single-day high of 2,392 reported on Tuesday. Florida officials announced 3,207 new cases Thursday morning, shattering the state’s previous single-day high of 2,783 new cases also reported on Tuesday. California officials reported Thursday 4,084 new cases that were confirmed on Wednesday.
The record-setting numbers come amid an ongoing tide of new infections and increasing hospitalizations reported among a slew of states across the American South and West. Some states now seeing a rise in infections were among the first and most aggressive to reopen.
New cases have risen rapidly in Arizona and some hospitals are nearing capacity. The state reported a record-number of patients in ICU beds on Thursday, accounting for 84% of the state’s capacity.
On Wednesday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey addressed the recent surge and announced new policies that allow local officials to require that residents wear masks in public and in businesses after a slew of health specialists wrote a public letter asking the Republican governor to do so.
In making the announcement, the governor also acknowledged that the virus is spreading more quickly than is acceptable. He had previously said that officials expected cases to rise after the state eased restrictions and reopened businesses on May 15.
“I said two weeks ago that there is not a trend here,” Ducey said Wednesday evening while presenting a chart of daily new cases across the state. “Looking at the last two weeks of data, there is a trend. And the trend is headed in the wrong direction and the actions we’re going to take are intended to change that direction and reverse this trend.”
Ducey asked Arizonans to practice social distancing and recommended they wear a mask. He also announced plans to continue to ramp up testing as well as contact tracing, a process whereby health officials contact infected people and try to identify the source of infection as well as other people who might have been infected.
Ducey also said the state is monitoring Santa Cruz and Yuma counties, which are along the state’s southern border with Mexico, because they are “areas of significant spread,” he said. Most new cases are coming from Maricopa County, which is the state’s most populous and urban county, Ducey said. But he said Santa Cruz and Yuma counties have the highest percent of people testing positive, with 31% and 20% of all tests coming back positive in both counties, respectively.
“We want to slow and contain the spread,” he said Wednesday. “We have successfully slowed the spread of Covid-19 in the past. We’re going to successfully slow Covid-19 again.”
Florida’s new cases reported Thursday bring the state’s total to 85,926, according to data from the Florida Department of Health. The data also shows that at least 3,061 people have died of Covid-19 in Florida as of Thursday.
Florida was among the first states to reopen, with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis allowing most restaurants and stores to open with limited capacity on May 4. The heavily populated Miami-Dade and Broward counties did not reopen until May 18. On June 5, most of the state moved deeper into reopening, allowing more stores to reopen as well as for gyms and some stores to operate at full capacity.
Earlier this week, after the state reported the previous record single-day increase in infections, DeSantis said the state would not reimplement more restrictions.
“We’re not shutting down. We’re going to go forward … We’re not rolling back,” the governor said at a news briefing Tuesday. “You have to have society function.”
DeSantis noted Tuesday that the average age of those who test positive has fallen from 65.5 years old in March to 37 in June. He said that’s evidence that the state is successfully protecting its most vulnerable from infection since the virus is more likely to cause severe disease in the elderly.
On Tuesday, DeSantis attributed the increase in cases at least partly to increased testing. The number of tests being run each day has increased across the country and in Florida. However, the percent of people tested who turn up positive has also increased in Florida, doubling since early June.
DeSantis on Tuesday also attributed some of the increase in cases to clusters that he said have been traced back to farm workers. He cited a cluster at a farm in the state’s northern Alachua County where he said an infected migrant worker who had come from Miami spread the virus. He said that dense living conditions among farm workers could be spreading the virus.
“Some of these guys go to work in a school bus, and they are all just packed there like sardines, going across Palm Beach County or some of these other places, and there’s all these opportunities to have transmission,” he said.
He also cited an outbreak at an industrial factory in central Florida, another at an airport as well as one at a jail in Lake County outside of Orlando. He added that the state will continue to try to protect its elderly population, especially in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Thursday marks the first time California has reported more than 4,000 new cases in a single day. The announcement brings the total number of confirmed infections in the state to 161,099. At least 5,290 people in California have died due to Covid-19, according to the state’s data.
Most of California’s new cases came from Los Angeles County, which reported 2,115. The state added that the single-day record was fueled by 600 positive test results that came in “from an earlier testing period.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom was the first in the nation to announce statewide restrictions on movement and businesses due to the coronavirus. Starting May 12, Newsom allowed restaurants and some stores to reopen in counties that met certain criteria tied to the state of the local outbreak.
However, on May 18, Newsom announced that he was relaxing the criteria counties were required to meet in order to move into the next phase of reopening.