A grim July: U.S. sees 250,000 new coronavirus cases in just five days

Five days into July, 250,000 new coronavirus cases were reported across the United States, with no sign the numbers will get any better.

Ten states have already notched record single-day highs in the number of cases since the start of the month, according to the latest NBC News tally.

"The current state is really not good," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a National Institute of Health livestream interview, when asked about the pandemic. He cited record-breaking cases. "Within a period of a week and a half, we have almost doubled the number of cases."

He noted that we are "still knee deep in the first wave of this. And I would say this would not be considered a wave, it was a surge, or a resurgence of infections superimposed upon a baseline ... that really never got down to where we wanted to go."

Florida hit record numbers of cases twice during that time period, with 45,000 new cases. On the Fourth of July alone the state reported 11,400 new cases, a grim number rivaling some of the worst days in New York state when it was a COVID-19 hotspot in April.

Half of the total 200,000 coronavirus cases in Florida were recorded in just the last two weeks.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been criticized for closing Florida too slowly and reopening too soon, said "the bulk" of the new cases are people from 15 to 44, an age category statistically less likely to die from COVID-19.

"The case fatality rate in Florida is much lower than many other states," DeSantis insisted.

Fauci agreed in the interview that most of the new cases are younger people, “but they can get very sick, put them out of action for weeks at a time."

In related developments:

  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms confirmed that she has tested positive for COVID-19 but has shown no symptoms.

  • Three of the nation's top health organizations urged Americans to take "simple steps" like wearing masks, social-distancing and hand washing to preserve the gains against the pandemic the country made during months of quarantine. "We are not powerless in this public health crisis, and we can defeat it in the same way we defeated previous threats to public health — by allowing science and evidence to shape our decisions and inform our actions," the open letter signed by the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Nurses Association said. In recent days, Republican leaders who had, until now, appeared reluctant to impose mask-wearing mandates have begun urging people to wear them. But President Donald Trump has still rarely been seen in public wearing a mask." The president mentioned that he's willing to wear a mask if appropriate in tight quarters," White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News on Monday.

  • Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said on MSNBC there should be a national and state mandate requiring people to wear masks outside the home. "It is no different, for me, then mandating a seat belt," said Suarez, a Republican. "I understand that there are people that get upset about it, that they think it is taking away their liberty and freedom. But the fact of the matter is, there's all kinds of rules that we implement for people's safety, whether it's stopping at a stop sign, or stopping at a red light, or wearing your seat belt. And those are things that we agree upon as a society so we can have order."

  • Such requirements may become ever more urgent as states and businesses open up. Federal workers are returning in large numbers to their offices, often at the objection of local lawmakers and union officials, The New York Times reported on Monday. The Defense Department has given the greenlight to have some 80 percent of the workforce return and hundreds of workers are already at their stations in the Pentagon. “Federal employees have been working throughout the entire pandemic,” Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, told the Times. “To move them to a work site so the administration can say they reopened the government is irresponsible.” But Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland have flattened their coronavirus curves. Many fear a precipitous return of workers could undo months of work. Back in April, leaders of region asked to Trump administration to allow employees to work from home for as long as feasible.

On Monday, worried that hospitals could be overwhelmed, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered a second shutdown of all restaurants, aside from take-out and delivery, and the closing of all ballrooms, banquet facilities, party venues, gyms and fitness centers, as well as short-term rentals.

“I am continuing to roll back business openings as we continue to see a spike in the percent of positive COVID-19 tests and an uptick in hospitalizations,” the mayor said in a statement. The order goes into effect on Wednesday.

Hotel pools, summer camps and day care centers will remain open, but with “strict capacity limits, requiring masks and social distancing of at least 6 feet,” Gimenez continued.

Gimenez still plans to reopen the beaches on Tuesday.

“But, if we see crowding and people not following the public health rules, I will be forced to close the beaches again,” the mayor warned.

Previously, these businesses had been closed for about two months when then pandemic started and allowed to reopen on May 18.

Florida is far from alone, the NBC News figures show.

Idaho has almost doubled its total case numbers in the last two weeks, going from 4,000 to nearly 8,000.

California has reported 27,000 new cases thus far in July. That does not include Los Angeles County, the largest county in the state, because it took a break from reporting any new coronavirus numbers over the three-day holiday weekend.

Texas, which had 24 more deaths and 5,106 new cases on Monday, reported 451 deaths and 83,000 cases in the past two weeks.

Arizona, which alongside Florida, California and Texas has seen some of the biggest increases in cases, reported 470 deaths and 45,000 new cases in the last two weeks..

And Ohio, which had until recently been considered a success story, reported 200 deaths and 12,000 new cases in the last two weeks.

In addition, 33 states and territories have seen a greater that 25 percent increase in COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks compared to the previous two weeks.

In all these states, the uptick appears to be driven by younger people failing to wear masks or social distance as they returned to bars, restaurants and other venues that had been shut down when the coronavirus was first reported.

Hard-hit states like Florida and Texas have responded by shutting down the bars a second time. But while Florida's DeSantis has refused to issue a statewide mask mandate, much to the frustration of Democrats in the state, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reversed course on Thursday and made it mandatory to wear them in public in any county with 20 or more cases.

There has also been an uptick in coronavirus cases in every county across Mississippi. One of those cases is Mississippi House Speaker Phillip Gunn, who announced via Facebook that he had tested positive and was self-quarantining.

“I don’t really have very many symptoms and I feel fine,” Gunn said via Facebook on Sunday. “I am one of the fortunate ones.” He is not, however, the only state legislator to have tested positive.

Mississippi on Monday reported seven more deaths and 583 new coronavirus cases.