The US has shattered its daily record for coronavirus infections, reporting more than 77,000 new cases as the number of deaths in a 24-hour period rose by nearly 1,000.
The loss of 969 lives on Thursday was the biggest increase since June 10, with Florida, South Carolina and Texas all reporting their biggest one-day spikes.
If Florida were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for the most new cases in a day behind the United States, Brazil and India.
While nearly half of US counties are seeing an “epidemic trend” – particularly across The Sun Belt and some midwestern states – according to spatial analytics company Esri.
More than 138,000 Americans have died from Covid-19, a toll that experts warn will likely surge following recent record spikes in case numbers and an alarming rise in hospitalisations in many states.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s (IHME) model projects the death toll will climb to just above 224,000 by November 1 unless immediate action is taken.
The hardest-hit areas in Texas and Arizona are running out of places to store bodies as their morgues fill up and are bringing in coolers and refrigerated trailers.
US deaths peaked in April, when the country lost on average 2,000 people a day.
Fatalities have steadily fallen, averaging 1,300 a day in May and under 800 a day in June before rising again in July.
Americans have become increasingly divided on issues such as the reopening of schools and businesses and wearing face masks in public, hindering the fight against the virus.
The current tally of 77,217 cases surpasses the previous record set on Friday when cases rose by 69,070.
In June, cases rose by an average of 28,000 a day.
In July, they have risen by an average of 57,625 a day.
On Thursday, Texas reported over 15,000 new cases, while Florida reported nearly 14,000 new cases and California almost 10,000.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, has warned that cases could soon top 100,000 a day if Americans do not come together to take steps necessary to halt the spread of the virus.
It comes as Colorado and Arkansas on joined a growing list of states requiring face coverings in public places to combat a surge in coronavirus infections.
But Georgia’s governor moved the other way and barred such measures from being imposed at the local level.
With announcements from Colorado Governor Jared Polis and Arkansas’s Asa Hutchinson, a majority of states – 26 out of 50 – have now sided with public health experts urging that face masks be mandatory rather than a matter of personal choice.
Bucking the trend, Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, issued an executive order late on Wednesday suspending local face-mask regulations while saying residents were “strongly encouraged” to wear them.