US coronavirus infections, hospitalisations rise, crisis could worsen

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A nurse checks a Covid-19 patient's ventilator.
A nurse checks a Covid-19 patient's ventilator.
Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images

The United States has revisited the grim milestone of recording more than 1 000 Covid-19 deaths in a single day, while infections and hospitalisations are rising in many states, forcing President Donald Trump to acknowledge the crisis could get worse.

More than 142 000 people in the country have died from the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, a toll that public health experts say will likely rise in several states. Florida, Texas, Georgia and California are among about 40 states recording more cases.

Florida reported 9 785 new cases and 140 new deaths on Wednesday, while Covid-19 patients currently hospitalised hit a record high of 9 530.

Alabama reported a record 61 new deaths on Wednesday, a day after hospitalisations hit a record high.

Nationally, coronavirus deaths rose by 1 141 on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally.

It was the first time since 10 June that the daily toll surpassed 1 000.

Nineteen states have reported a record number of currently hospitalised Covid-19 patients so far in July. Thirty-two states have reported record increases in cases in July and 16 states have reported record increase in deaths during the month.

The US government moved to secure 100 million doses of vaccine, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Wednesday.

The government will pay $1.95 billion to buy the doses of Pfizer Inc and German biotech firm BioNTech SE's Covid-19 vaccine candidate if they are able to successfully develop one, the companies said.

Pfizer said it would not receive any money from the government unless the vaccine is deemed to be safe and effective and is successfully manufactured.

Trump, who played down the extent of the health crisis and the importance of face coverings, changing his tone on Tuesday, and encouraged Americans to wear a mask if they cannot maintain social distance.

Trump also said that the spread of the virus "will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better - something I don't like saying about things, but that's the way it is".

Mandatory mask wearing, which health officials say can slow the spread of the virus, is a political issue among Americans, with many conservatives calling such rules a violation of their constitutional rights.

Coronavirus infections are increasing in some politically important states including Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Republican Trump is trailing Democratic candidate Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the 3 November election.

A July 15-21 Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that only 38% of the public supports Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including 20% of undecided or third-party registered voters.

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