MIAMI • Florida’s greater Miami area has become the latest US coronavirus hot spot to halt its reopening, ordering restaurant dining closed as cases across the country rose by the tens of thousands and the death toll surpassed 130,000.
Restaurants also were targeted for a weekend crackdown on coronavirus enforcement in California, where hospitalisations for Covid-19 have jumped 50 per cent over the past two weeks and the State Capitol building in Sacramento was temporarily closed for deep cleaning.
For an eighth straight day, Texas posted an all-time high in the number of people hospitalised on Monday at any one moment with the contagious respiratory illness, up more than 500 admissions from the day before to nearly 8,700.
The US military said it would deploy a special 50-member medical team, including emergency room and critical-care nurses and respiratory specialists, to a hard-hit area in and around San Antonio.
California, Texas and Florida are among two dozen states reporting high infection rates as a percentage of diagnostic tests conducted over the past week, an alarming sign of a virus still spreading fast throughout much of the United States.
“It’s a serious situation that we have to address immediately,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist and member of the White House coronavirus task force, said during a live Internet interview on Monday.
The Miami-Dade County emergency restaurant closure was ordered by Mayor Carlos Gimenez, the top official in a metropolitan area that has reported some 48,000 Covid-19 infections to date among its 2.8 million residents.
An updated statement late on Monday said the emergency order will allow outdoor dining to continue, wherever possible, with tables of no more than four patrons, and music at a level that does not require shouting to prevent the emission of potentially dangerous airborne droplets.
The move reimposing rules to permit carry-out and delivery service only, just weeks after eateries began welcoming customers back to their favourite tables, booths and patios, left struggling restaurateurs even more worried about the survival of their businesses.
“We’re burnt-out emotionally, we’re burnt-out financially, and we’re burnt-out from the trauma of seeing everything that’s happening,” said Ms Karina Iglesias, a partner at a popular Spanish restaurant in downtown Miami.
Covid-19 infections are on the rise in 39 states, according to a Reuters analysis of cases over the past two weeks, with the country as a whole averaging some 50,000 new cases nearly every 24 hours in recent days. Sixteen states have posted record daily case counts so far this month.
More states are also reporting a troubling rise in the percentage of Covid-19 diagnostic tests that come back positive – a key indicator of community spread that experts refer to as the rate of “positivity”. Two dozen states, mostly in the South and West, have averaged positivity rates over the past week above 5 per cent, a level the World Health Organisation deems to be concerning, collected by Reuters shows.
Several states were also averaging double-digit rates and climbing, including Arizona at 26 per cent, Florida at 19 per cent and Mississippi at 17 per cent. California’s positivity rate has also risen.
The nationwide loss of life from Covid-19 has surpassed 130,000 and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention forecast that the death toll could reach 160,000 later this month.