US virus resurgence worries health experts

Nomaan Merchant and Juan A. Lozano
A resurgent coronavirus is worrying United States health experts and hospital administrators

A coronavirus resurgence is wiping out two months of progress in the US and sending infections to dire new levels across the South and West.

Hospital administrators and health experts are on Wednesday warning that politicians and a tired-of-being-cooped-up public are letting a disaster unfold.

The US recorded a one-day total of 34,700 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, the highest level since late April when the number peaked at 36,400, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

While newly confirmed infections have been declining steadily in early hotspots such as New York and New Jersey, several other states set single-day records this week including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma.

Some of them also broke hospitalisation records, as did North Carolina and South Carolina.

"People got complacent," said Dr. Marc Boom, CEO of the Houston Methodist hospital system. "And it's coming back and biting us, quite frankly."

Stocks slid on Wall Street as the news dampened hopes for a quick economic turnaround. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost over 700 points for a drop of 2.7 per cent. The broader S&P 500 fell 2.6 per cent.

The virus has been blamed for over 120,000 US deaths - the highest toll in the world - and more than 2.3 million confirmed infections nationwide.

On Wednesday, the widely cited University of Washington computer model of the outbreak projected nearly 180,000 deaths by October 1.

California reported over 7100 new cases, and Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom said he would withhold pandemic-related funding from local governments that brush off state requirements on masks and other anti-virus measures. Florida's single-day count surged to 5500, a 25 per cent jump from the record set last week.

In Texas, which began lifting its shutdowns on May 1, hospitalisations have doubled and new cases have tripled in two weeks. Governor Greg Abbott told KFDA-TV the state is facing a "massive outbreak" and might need new local restrictions to preserve hospital space.

The Houston area's intensive care units are nearly full, and two public hospitals are running at capacity, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

Just 17 per cent of intensive-care beds were available Wednesday in Alabama - including just one in Montgomery - though hospitals can add more, said Dr. Don Williamson, head of the Alabama Hospital Association.

In Arizona, emergency rooms are seeing about 1200 suspected COVID-19 patients a day, compared with around 500 a month ago.