US Covid cases climb as midwestern states report steep increases

Jessica Glenza
<span>Photograph: Alex Wroblewski/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Alex Wroblewski/Reuters

Covid-19 cases are again climbing in the United States, with the highest daily rates of new infections since August, when major states such as Florida became hotspots, new data from Johns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 tracker shows.

Now, several midwestern states are posting steep increases in Covid-19 cases, with at least one setting up a field hospital to cope with the flood of patients. Cases are also ticking up in the north-east, where tight restrictions had the virus under control for most of the summer.

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“We have to get back to the basics in fighting this virus,” Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, said on Twitter this week, as the state posted another record day of Covid-19 infections.

The state set up a field hospital near state fairgrounds to treat what could be an overflow of patients with Covid-19. More than 8,000 people in the state are hospitalized. More than 213,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the US.

“We are on the verge of a crisis in Green Bay and our surrounding counties,” Dr Paul Casey, emergency department head at Bellin health systems in Green Bay, Wisconsin, told CNBC.

More than 57,000 people tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday, one of the highest tallies since this summer, when Florida, Texas and California were national hotspots. Cases began to decrease in August, and Florida has since completely reopened, including allowing bars and restaurants to operate at full capacity.

Cases are now ticking up in Florida again, but the most worrying trends in recent weeks has come from the midwest, where towns in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wisconsin have seen steep increases.

With cases surging, South Dakota’s Republican governor, Kristi Noem, accused the media of spreading “fear” about her hands-off approach to the pandemic, as Donald Trump tweeted his approval. She said: “Many in the mainstream media have been attacking South Dakota for respecting our people’s freedom and personal responsibility.” South Dakota has the second highest per capita rate of Covid-19 in the nation.

Noem has plans to campaign for the president in Minnesota on Sunday and Monday. In the state, local media reported some high-profile Minnesota Republicans are in quarantine after coming into contact with the potentially infectious president.

Trump held a 3,000-person rally in Duluth in late September, before his Covid-19 diagnosis. Nine cases of Covid-19 have since been linked to the rally, with two people hospitalized and one in the intensive care unit, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

At the same time, America’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, continued to warn against large gatherings. He said it was “not surprising” to see a Rose Garden event held by Trump be labeled a “super-spreader” event, because people gathered in large numbers without face masks.

Trump was holding an in-person event Saturday at the White House, despite being potentially infectious. Trump has largely refused to self-isolate, returning to the Oval Office soon after he was hospitalized.

Beyond the president’s hospitalization for Covid-19, the details of when he contracted the virus remain unclear, making it difficult to know how long he should isolate and the ongoing risks he could pose to others.

An increase in cases has also affected New York, which has kept the virus under control for most of the summer through restrictions on gatherings and indoor dining. But cases have ticked up in the New York City boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, and north of the city in Orange and Rockland counties.

The new lockdowns have sparked backlash from Orthodox Jewish communities, many of whom are subject to the restrictions, and who have taken to streets and courts to protest. One effort to fight the state’s restriction on religious gatherings of more than 10 people in court failed, after a state judge ruled New York had an interest in protecting public health.