As reopening plans went into a dramatic reverse or stalled across the US in the face of a resurgent virus, Mike Pence called off a planned campaign bus tour in Florida amid a surge in confirmed Covid-19 cases.
The vice-president had been set to appear in Lake Wales at an event next week organized by pro-Trump group America First Policies. The event was billed as part of the “Great American Comeback tour.”
The group announced: “Out of an abundance of caution at this time, we are postponing the Great American Comeback tour stop in Florida. We look forward to rescheduling soon.” Pence was still traveling to the state, the White House confirmed, saying he would meet with Governor Ron DeSantis and his healthcare teams.
Florida is seen as a key battleground state in the 2020 election and has been controversially picked as the site of a Trump rally in late August to celebrate his nomination for a second term.
The news of the cancellation came as Miami became the latest local authority to act in the wake of the virus’s rise by announcing it was closing its beaches and planning a crackdown on coronavirus rules.
Florida also reported yet another record rise in daily cases. The Florida department of health reported 9,585 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, shattering the previous daily high for positive Covid-19 infections which it notched up on Friday. Florida has now had 132,545 positive cases to date.
Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez will sign an order to close all beaches starting 3 July and ending 7 July. Gimenez said closures may be extended depending on conditions, or if people do not follow facemask rules, or if social distancing is not observed.
“If people are not going to be responsible and protect themselves and others from this pandemic, then the government is forced to step in and restore common sense to save lives,” Gimenez said.
Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, have emerged as states that are experiencing a rapidly increasing number of coronavirus cases. But they are just a few examples of the worst cases of America’s pandemic, which once again appears to be spiraling out of control, even as the White House has touted its reopening plans and claimed the country has overcome the worst of the threat.
The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases per day in the US hit an all-time high of 40,000 according to figures released by Johns Hopkins on Friday, eclipsing the mark first set during one of the deadliest stretches of the pandemic back in late April.
Record seven-day case averages have now been reported by 13 states in total across a huge swathe of America, including Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Washington.
The news has thrown much of the US’s effort to reopen its economy – which president Donald Trump sees as crucial to his re-election efforts – into reverse, or stalled.
In Texas, bars have also been closed again after the numbers of new cases continues to soar. “At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” the state’s governor, Greg Abbott, said last week, as the state recorded 5,996 new coronavirus cases and the highest number of daily deaths since mid-May.
Abbott has also issued orders to postpone “all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary” in the state’s four biggest counties as Houston reported all its ICU beds are now occupied.
One small city on the outskirts of Houston even instituted a curfew starting Saturday night. Esmeralda Moya, mayor of Galena Park, a community of 10,000 people, said: “It is crucial to continue to practice good hygiene, stay home as much as possible, avoid unnecessary trips, gatherings, and wear a face-covering at all times when you leave your home.”
The closures in Miami come as the Florida Department of Health announced 8,942 new coronavirus cases on Friday. Miami-Dade, which encompasses Miami, reported 1,528 new cases, the highest single-day case total since the pandemic began.
The mayor’s directive came as DeSantis, who has repeatedly portrayed economic damage from coronavirus lockdowns as greater than risks from the virus itself, said he would not order Floridians to wear face coverings.
But DeSantis – a staunch Trump ally - said he would slow Florida’s phased re-opening by suspending alcohol sales at bars statewide.
California has also been hit. Over the past two weeks, intensive care unit admissions in California have spiked by 19%, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, said.
On Saturday, the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, called on state investigators to investigate a coronavirus cluster in the New York City suburb of Westchester, believed to have been caused by a student who returned from Florida.