Texas, Arizona and Florida all reported their highest daily increases in new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, even after all three states implemented and later lifted stay-at-home orders meant to stop the spread of infections.
State officials in Florida reported 2,783 new cases, in Texas, 2,622, and in Arizona, 2,392. All three states have seen social distancing regulations relaxed for weeks, and most businesses have been allowed to reopen in some capacity.
The figures come amid ongoing efforts by President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders to downplay the ongoing spread of the virus. At least 21 states have seen rates of new cases increase over the last two weeks as a majority of the country reopens.
At the same time, Trump has been pushing misleading claims that infections are only increasing because there’s more testing, going so far as to claim Monday, without evidence, that “if we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.”
The president is also preparing to hold a massive rally in Oklahoma this weekend with 20,000 attendees at an indoor arena, despite pleas from local officials and health professionals that the event could quickly lead to a renewed outbreak in the state. Infection rates in Oklahoma rose 68% in the second week of June.
“I’m extremely concerned,” Bruce Dart, the executive director of the Tulsa health department, told the Tulsa World. “I think we have the responsibility to stand up when things are happening that I think are going to be dangerous for our community, which it will be. It hurts my heart to think about the aftermath of what’s going to happen.”
Other state leaders have pushed back their own reopening efforts as cases have surged, including the governors of Utah and Oregon.
But in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said he was not considering another shutdown despite the surge in cases. He also rolled out the White House’s misleading talking point that cases were rising only because of increased testing.
“We’re not rolling back,” DeSantis said during a press briefing, according to the Miami Herald. “The reason we did the mitigation was to protect the hospital system.”
“You have to have society function,” he added. “To suppress a lot of working-age people at this point I don’t think would be very effective.”
In Arizona, some health officials were already reporting a strain on hospitals’ intensive care capacity due to a spike in coronavirus cases, even as Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said any concern was “misinformation” and said the facilities were prepared to handle an influx in patients.
And in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said that, despite his own state’s figures, hospital capacity remained “abundant.”
“The more Texans protect their own health, the safer our state will be and the more we will be able to open up for business,” he said Tuesday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said that, despite the attempts to alleviate any concern, some states jumped the gun on reopening before meeting White House criteria on case levels.
“There certainly were states that did not strictly follow the guidelines that we put out about opening America again,” Fauci said in an interview with NPR. “Clearly there were states that ― left to their own decision about that ― went ahead and opened to a varying degree … certainly before they got to the benchmarks that they needed to get.”
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