By Brad Brooks
LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) – The United States recorded 45,242 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the largest single-day increase of the pandemic, according to a Reuters tally, bringing the total number of Americans who have tested positive to at least 2.48 million.
The new record for positive COVID-19 tests comes as several states at the center of a new surge in infections took steps back from efforts to ease restrictions on businesses. COVID-19 is the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars across Texas to close by mid-day and required restaurants to limit indoor seating capacity to 50%, while Florida state officials told bars to immediately stop serving alcohol on their premises.
Abbot’s announcement stunned Texas bar owners, who said the governor, a Republican in his second term, had given them little notice. Mark Martinez, owner of a Lubbock beer garden, learned only when friends texted him the news at around 8 a.m.
“I spent thousands of dollars in inventory getting ready for this weekend. I could have really used that (money) for my rent, which is due next week,” said Martinez, 44.
“We were just getting to where we could pay the bills,” said Tish Keller, owner of the Triple J Chophouse and Brew Co. in downtown Lubbock. “Taking us back down to 50% capacity means we won’t have enough business to pay staff, let alone the bills.”
Keller said she didn’t know how long she could stay open and dreaded trying to save her business from ruin twice in one year.
CASES SURGE IN FLORIDA
Florida issued its new rules after recording a startling 8,942 new cases of COVID-19, eclipsing the state’s one-day record of 5,511 reached on June 24.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said Friday that Imperial County, southeast of Los Angeles, has become so overwhelmed by the virus that he was recommending it issue a strict new stay-at-home order.
Imperial County health officials later tweeted that its stay-at-home order imposed in March remained in place. The county board of supervisors scheduled a meeting for Friday night to consider further action.
Newsom has paused allowing counties to further reopen their economies in response to rising COVID-19 hospitalizations.
In Alaska, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz issued an emergency order requiring residents to wear masks in public, indoor spaces after the state identified 836 cases as of Friday, 387 of them in his city.
Texas had been at the forefront of states peeling away restrictions designed to control the pandemic, allowing bars to reopen in May.
It has since witnessed some of the biggest spikes in new cases, reporting 5,996 on Thursday. The state has also seen record numbers of hospitalizations in the last two weeks.
Almost 125,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, the highest known death toll from the highly infections disease in the world.
Despite the grim news from Texas, Florida and elsewhere, President Donald Trump said on Friday the United States was coming back from the crisis, which has halted large parts of the economy and left millions jobless.
“We have a little work to do, and we’ll get it done. We’re having some very good numbers coming out in terms of the comeback, the comeback of our nation, and I think it’s going very rapidly and it’s going to be very good,” he said at an event in the White House.
Vice President Mike Pence said that in Texas and Florida “we’re seeing more and more young people, under the age of 35, who are testing positive. In many cases they have no symptoms.”
Also reporting record rises in cases this week were Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming.
Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen, Nathan Layne, Peter Szekely in New York; Jane Ross in Los Angeles, Yereth Rosen in Anchorage and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Alistair Bell and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Daniel Wallis.