Florida recorded a record number of new Covid-19 cases on Saturday as the coronavirus outbreak cast a cloud over Independence Day celebrations, forcing many events to be cancelled across the US.
A further 11,458 people in Florida tested positive over the past 24 hours, the state’s health department revealed. This is a record for the state, and also the second-highest one-day increase of any state other than New York, which reported a daily increase of 11,571 on April 15 during the depths of its crisis, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking project data.
Friday set a one-day record for the number of new coronavirus cases and was the third straight day of more than 50,000 new cases.
Florida, California, Texas, Arizona and Georgia all reported large single-day increases, although lower than their record jumps on Thursday.
The rising number of new cases in those states helped to spur a 105 per cent rise in the US daily case rate throughout the month of June.
The US has now confirmed 2,784,062 cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to data on Friday from Covid Tracking Project, out of a global total of almost 11m. More than 122,000 people have died in the US out of a worldwide death toll of more than half a million.
Number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the US
Many Americans were facing a July 4 without the fireworks as commemorative events were cancelled in a renewed bid to stem the outbreak — with one high-profile exception.
Donald Trump headed to Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, for an Independence Day celebration on Friday night that drew a largely unmasked crowd even as other state authorities moved to restrict big gatherings.
Mr Trump denounced a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history” by what he described as “far-left fascism”. This “leftwing cultural revolution” aimed to replace the American Revolution and rewrite history books, he said.
“Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities,” said Mr Trump.
A number of monuments commemorating figures associated with the American Confederacy have been removed by state authorities or torn down by civil rights protesters.
The debate over monuments has sprung from widespread protests over police brutality against black Americans following the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by police officers in Minnesota.
Mr Trump made no reference to the pandemic in the speech, but returned to the theme of radical leftwing intolerance that was the feature of his return to the campaign trail in Tulsa, Oklahoma late last month.
“Children are being taught in school to hate their own country,” Mr Trump said.
Kristi Noem, the Republican governor of South Dakota, said earlier this week that there would be no social distancing at the Mount Rushmore event, and television footage of the event confirmed that.
“We told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home, but those who want to come and join us, we’ll be giving out free face masks,” she said.
US media reported that Kimberly Guilfoyle, partner of the president’s son Donald Trump Jr, tested positive for coronavirus on Friday before the Mount Rushmore event.
Several other cities and states have cancelled July 4 celebrations as they slow or reverse the lifting of lockdowns in a bid to wrestle the virus under control. Texas, Arizona and Colorado have all ordered bars to close, while Florida, California and Delaware have shut some of their beaches.
The rising caseloads have prompted public health experts to warn that thousands more people risk contracting the virus at the parties and gatherings traditionally held to celebrate the July 4 public holiday in the US.
On Tuesday Anthony Fauci, a top infectious diseases specialist and White House coronavirus task force member, warned that the US could see coronavirus cases hit 100,000 a day.
Mr Trump is set to attend another celebration on Saturday evening in Washington DC, including air displays from the US Air Force Thunderbirds and US Navy Blue Angels, alongside the traditional fireworks.
The interior department said that more than 300,000 cloth face coverings would be available and distributed to visitors on the National Mall in central DC, and that social distancing was encouraged.
Dr Fauci and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, have both urged Americans to wear masks, although Mr Trump has shown little enthusiasm for them.
Mr Trump has also insisted that the rise in cases across America was due to increased testing, which he described on Twitter on Thursday as “so massive and so good, far bigger and better than any other country”.
“This is great news, but even better news is that death, and the deaths rate, is down,” he tweeted.