Half a million US virus cases in past week

Lisa Shumaker and Maria Caspani
·3-min read

Nearly half a million people in the United States have contracted COVID-19 in the past seven days as cases and hospitalisations set fresh records.

More than 5600 people died from the virus nationwide in the past week, with hospitalisations shooting up 13 per cent, a Reuters analysis shows.

Illinois, which has emerged as a recent hot spot, has reported over 31,000 new cases in seven days, more than any state except Texas.

Outbreaks are worsening in hotly contested battleground states in next week's presidential election like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Pennsylvania's department of health on Tuesday reported a fresh record in daily cases, while Wisconsin broke one-day state records in both cases and deaths as officials told residents to stay home, wear a mask and cancel travel and social gatherings.

"We must take significant and collective actions," Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said.

Contact tracers were overwhelmed and hospitals may soon face staffing shortages, she added.

"This is going to get worse before it gets better."

President Donald Trump, facing a tough re-election battle on November 3, lashed out again on Tuesday at reports coronavirus is surging and reiterated his claim the country is "rounding the turn" in its battle with the pandemic that has killed more than 226,000 people.

"We did the ventilators and now we're doing all of the equipment and now we're doing vaccines, we're doing therapeutics. We've done a great job, and people are starting to see," he told reporters at the White House.

To try to contain the surge, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker imposed fresh restrictions in seven of 11 regions, most recently in Chicago on Tuesday.

Beginning Friday in the Windy City, indoor dining in bars and restaurants will be suspended and gatherings limited to 25 people.

The implementation of such restrictions already begun elsewhere in the state amid a strong push back from some business owners battered by the pandemic.

Other states have walked back reopening plans to curb the spread of the virus as cooler weather sets in.

Idaho Governor Brad Little on Monday announced indoor gatherings of more than 50 people would be prohibited and outdoor gatherings capped at 25 per cent.

Health experts believe the virus is surging because of private social gatherings, colder temperatures driving people inside and fatigue with COVID-19 precautions.

Beyond the Midwest, the Texas city of El Paso is also facing a surge in cases that is overwhelming hospitals, with officials setting up an alternate care facility to help relieve medical centres.

"The narrative historically has been the above-65, those with multiple co-morbidities. But we're seeing 20-year-olds. We're seeing 30-year-olds, 40-year-olds," Dr Ogechika Alozie, an infectious disease specialist said.

"There's that exhaustion, but again, we buckle up and take care of the patients."

In Denver, Colorado, Mayor Michael Hancock announced he was reinstating some restrictions to combat what city officials described as a "dramatic rise" in daily cases, positivity rate and hospitalisations.