US holiday weekend adds to virus worries as case counts grow

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Tampa Bay Times

Javonnie Jackson, 9, left, sits with his grandmother Zoraida Rullan, 69, watching fireworks explode over Nathan Benderson Park on Friday, July 3, 2020, in Sarasota, Fl. The pair were reunited after nearly five months of separation due to the coronavirus. (Jonah Hinebaugh/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Florida and Texas reported record daily increases in confirmed coronavirus cases Saturday, the latest sign that the virus is surging in many parts of the United States, casting a pall over Fourth of July celebrations.

Officials and health authorities warned people to take precautions or simply stay home on Independence Day, as confirmed cases are climbing in dozens of states. The U.S. reported more than 50,000 confirmed cases on Saturday for the third day in a row, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. has more than 2.8 million confirmed cases — about a quarter of the 11 million worldwide infections, according to the tally, which is widely thought to understate the true toll, partially because of asymptomatic cases and limited testing. More than 525,000 people have died around the globe.

While the rise in cases in the U.S. partly reflects expanded testing, experts say there is evidence that the virus is also spreading more as states reopen their economies.

Deaths have begun to rise in some states that have seen a surge in cases — including Texas, Arizona and Florida — and the coming weeks will be telling. Still, some experts have expressed doubt that deaths will ever return to the peak of around 2,200 deaths per day, hit in mid-April, because of advances in treatment and because more young adults who are less vulnerable to serious complications are among those diagnosed recently.

In another worrying sign, the World Health Organization said member states reported more than 212,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world on Saturday, the highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic. The Geneva-based organization said more than 60% of the confirmed cases reports it received were in the Americas, which includes the United States and Brazil.

WHO’s count can differ from other global case tallies due to reporting delays.

The sobering updates came as local officials and health experts across the U.S. tried to minimize opportunities for the virus to continue spreading on a holiday weekend typically spent eating at backyard gatherings or crowding elbow-to-elbow to view parades and fireworks shows.