US states reimpose virus restrictions; Asia sees new cases

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Two of America’s largest states have reversed course and clamped down on bars again in the nation’s biggest retreat yet as the daily number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the U.S. surged to an all-time high of 40,000.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered all bars closed Friday, while Florida banned alcohol at such establishments. The two states joined a small but growing number that are either backtracking or putting any further reopening of their economies on hold because of a comeback by the virus, mostly in the country’s South and West.

Health experts have said a disturbingly large number of cases are being seen among young people who are going out again, often without wearing masks or observing other social-distancing rules.

“It is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” Abbott said.

Abbott, a Republican who had pursued up one of the most aggressive reopening schedules of any governor, scaled back restaurant capacity and said outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people would need approval from local officials.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez in Florida’s Miami-Dade county announced Friday night he would close beaches over the Fourth of July weekend. He said cracking down on recreational activities is prudent given the growing number of infections among young adults.

Stocks fell sharply on Wall Street again over the surging case numbers. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 730 points, or nearly 3%.

Globally, China saw an uptick in cases, one day after authorities said they expect an outbreak in Beijing would be brought under control in the near future. The National Health Commission on Saturday reported 18 new cases in the nation’s capital, the most in a week, among 21 nationwide.

South Korea, where a resurgence in the past month threatens to erase the country’s earlier success, reported 51 new cases including 35 in the Seoul metropolitan area. Officials worried about the fragile economy have resisted calls to reimpose restrictions eased in April.

Australia braced for more imported cases as citizens return home. About 300 people were due to arrive this weekend from Mumbai, India, with others expected to follow from South America and Indonesia. One state heath official said he is preparing for 5% to 10% of the returnees to be infected, based on arrivals from Indonesia in other states.

In Florida, under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, the agency that regulates bars acted after the daily number of new confirmed cases neared 9,000, almost doubling the record set just two days earlier.

Colleen Corbett, a 30-year-old bartender at two places in Tampa, said that she was disappointed and worried about being unemployed again but that the restrictions are the right move. Most customers were not wearing masks, she said.

“It was like they forgot there was a pandemic or just stopped caring,” Corbett said.

A number of the hardest-hit states, including Arizona and Arkansas, have Republican governors who have resisted mask-wearing requirements and have largely echoed President Donald Trump’s desire to reopen the economy quickly amid warnings the virus could come storming back.

The White House coronavirus task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, held its first briefing in nearly two months, and Pence gave assurances that the U.S. is “in a much better place” than it was two months ago.

He said the country has more medical supplies on hand, a smaller share of patients are being hospitalized, and deaths are much lower than they were in the spring.

The count of new confirmed infections, provided by Johns Hopkins University, eclipsed the previous high of 36,400, set on April 24, during one of the deadliest stretches. Newly reported cases per day have risen on average about 60% over the past two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis.

While the rise partly reflects expanded testing, experts say there is ample evidence the scourge is making a comeback, including rising deaths and hospitalizations in parts of the country and higher percentages of tests coming back positive for the virus.

At the task force briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, urged people to mind their responsibility to others: “A risk for you is not just isolated to you.”

Deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. are running at about 600 per day, down from a peak of around 2,200 in mid-April. Some experts have expressed doubt that deaths will return to that level, because of advances in treatment and prevention and because younger adults are more likely than older ones to survive.

The virus is blamed for about 125,000 deaths and nearly 2.5 million confirmed infections nationwide, by Johns Hopkins’ count. But health officials believe the true number of infections is about 10 times higher. Worldwide, the virus has claimed close to a half-million lives.

Louisiana reported its second one-day spike of more than 1,300 cases his week. The increasing numbers led Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards this week to suspend further easing of restrictions. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey did the same in Arizona, where cases are topping 3,000 a day and 85% of hospital beds are occupied.

For the second time in a week, Tennessee reported its biggest one-day jump in confirmed infections, with more than 1,400, but Republican Gov. Bill Lee has been reluctant to reinstate restrictions or call for a mask mandate.

In a reversal of fortune, New York said it is offering equipment and other help to Arizona, Texas and Florida, noting that other states came to its aid when it was in the throes of the deadliest outbreak in the nation this spring.

“We will never forget that graciousness, and we will repay it any way we can,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

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Smith reported from Providence, Rhode Island. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

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