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An increasing number of people in Texas and Florida are being admitted to the hospital because of COVID-19, adding to concern that some of the most populous U.S. states are facing a new wave of illness after lifting lockdown orders.
Coastal states hit by the pandemic early are emerging from months of quarantine having largely flattened the curve of infection, but others whose governors resisted stringent measures are confronting daunting numbers. New cases are ticking up in more than 20 states, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
On Tuesday, Texas posted an 8.3% rise in hospitalizations to a record 2,518, the biggest daily increase since June 4, according to the state health department. The rolling seven-day average climbed to a record 2,243.
In Florida, cumulative hospitalizations rose by 191 to 12,206. On the seven-day basis, they reached 1,021, the highest since May 25.
And Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that his state wouldn’t be moving into phase 3 of its reopening even though most numbers are declining. He said he wants more time to study virus case and hospitalization figures.
At a media briefing in the state capital of Austin, Governor Greg Abbott said Texas registered 2,622 new cases, the most since the pandemic emerged. However, he said the data was skewed by “batch returns” of testing done in several counties over more than one day.
Abbott reassured residents that hospitals in the second-most-populous state have ample capacity, but he said some bar patrons are putting themselves at risk by failing to observe social distancing. And he rebuffed local officials seeking permission to reimpose lockdowns or other restrictions amid the resurgent pandemic.
County leaders and mayors in the biggest metropolitan areas have warned that Abbott’s phased reopening of the Texas economy that began seven weeks ago has been too swift and sweeping, and bristled at his executive orders superseding local crackdowns.
“We do not need to choose between returning to jobs and protecting health care,” Abbott said.
Florida reported 80,109 Covid-19 cases Tuesday, up 3.6% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 2.5% in the previous seven days. Deaths among Florida residents reached 2,993, an increase of 1.9%.
Seen on a rolling seven-day basis, Florida’s new cases reached 14,109, the highest ever. For most of May, the state had been reporting about 5,000 cases a week, but the numbers have been elevated since early June. New cases have now exceeded 1,000 a day in 13 of the last 14 days.
Speaking Tuesday from Tallahassee, Governor Ron DeSantis said he had no plans to roll back the state’s reopening. Echoing comments from days past, he said higher Covid-19 numbers reflect expanded testing as well as isolated outbreaks among migrant farm workers in Florida’s agricultural communities.
With more testing, he said, the state was spending more time in “high-risk environments,” including farms and factories, which sometimes yield extremely high positivity rates because of the close quarters. He said a single sick worker sometimes leads to many others. Still, he said many of those cases were asymptomatic or required no hospitalization.
DeSantis said hospital capacity remains ample, noting that Covid-19 related hospitalizations in intensive-care units were down 43% from April 15 to 458, as of Monday. Still, Florida’s data shows new hospitalizations are rising on a trailing seven-day basis, albeit from a low base.
“We’re not shutting down,” DeSantis said, speaking in front of a dais bedecked with his administration’s reopening slogan: “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step.”
“We’re going to go forward. We’re going to continue to protect the most vulnerable.”
In Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county, local leaders including county Mayor Carlos Gimenez and City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said Monday that they have no plans to revert to lockdowns. But they said a rise in hospitalizations would be cause to revisit that decision.
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