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US passes 8 million coronavirus cases as death toll approaches 220,000

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The US passed 8m recorded coronavirus cases on Friday, another unwelcome mark for the country with the most cases and the worst death toll from the global pandemic, approaching 220,000.

Despite there being no sign that the pandemic is under control in the US, on Thursday Donald Trump said that the virus would “peter out”.

Cases are increasing in 32 states, holding steady in 15 and decreasing in just three: Louisiana, Kentucky and Vermont.

According to Johns Hopkins University, by mid-afternoon on Friday the US had confirmed 8,008,402 cases since March. On Thursday, 63,610 new cases were reported, the highest single-day total since mid-August. The US is seeing an average increase of 50,000 cases a day.

At an event in Florida earlier on Friday, Trump insisted: “We are rounding the turn. I say that all the time.”

But experts have warned of increased spread of the virus in the midwest, as the weather gets colder and more Americans gather inside.

Wisconsin has set up emergency overflow hospital facilities and the national guard is helping out at extra testing sites.

“We are in crisis here in Wisconsin,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary of state health services. “The trajectory does not look good. We need to be prepared for that.”

In Utah, Gary Herbert, the Republican governor, said: “Our hospitals are getting overwhelmed. The dramatic increase in infections has put the integrity of our healthcare system at risk.”

Herbert said the national guard was on standby to build a field hospital in a convention center outside Salt Lake City. On Tuesday, he ordered that masks be worn at all outdoor events.

Hotspots are also springing up in Oklahoma, Wyoming, Missouri, Mississippi and North Dakota.

Missouri reported limited intensive care capacity “in several regions”.

Indiana is facing “critical ICU bed shortages along with personnel shortages”, state chief medical officer Lindsay Weaver said. In late September, the Republican governor, Eric Holcomb, lifted most coronavirus restrictions. Now officials are calling for volunteers to plug staffing gaps at some hospitals.

Further south, parts of Texas and New Mexico are in trouble. The border city of El Paso, in west Texas, reported that it was running out of intensive care beds.

New Mexico’s Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, announced early closing for restaurants and bars, restricted gatherings to no more than five and said: “This is the most serious emergency New Mexico has ever faced.”

In a Friday online conversation between Dr Anthony Fauci and Johns Hopkins experts, the nation’s top infectious disease public health expert warned Americans eschewing public health advice: “By not wearing a mask and not socially distancing, you’re becoming part of the problem when you should be part of the solution.”

Trump has belatedly recommended wearing masks, after months of dismissing and discouraging them and avoiding wearing one himself.

The president caught coronavirus earlier this month and was hospitalised for several days.

Source: The Guardian

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