There are fears the coronavirus outbreak in the US could once again spiral out of control, as resistance to wearing masks and refusal to heed social distancing guidance takes its toll in a country that already has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the world.
One in five people tested in the country are testing positive for coronavirus, with a surge of cases across the south and west of the country.
“It is snowballing,” said Dr Marc Boom, CEO and president of Houston Methodist Hospital, who noted hospital admissions had tripled since Memorial Day holiday on 25 May, across eight hospitals in the area. “We will most certainly see more people die as a result of this spike,” he said.
Outbreaks have been reported in University American Football teams in recent days. Meat processing plants, sites of outbreaks across the world, have also been hit in the US. And even those close to President Donald Trump have been testing positive including six staff members who helped sto set up his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Sunday.
Despite the surge in cases, and the 120,000 confirmed deaths from the disease, many local and state governments are resisting imposing stronger measures to halt the spread.
The Governors of Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina have all resisted statewide mask requirements, leaving the matter to local authorities.
In Orlando, 152 coronavirus cases were linked to one bar near the University of Central Florida campus, said Dr Raul Pino, a state health officer in the resort city.
“A lot of transmission happened there,” Pino said. ““People are very close. People are not wearing masks. People are drinking, shouting, dancing, sweating, kissing and hugging, all the things that happen in bars. And all those things that happen are not good for COVID-19.”
Dr Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, said that the outbreak is “definitely accelerating” in the US and a number of other countries, dismissing the notion that the record daily levels of new cases simply reflect more testing. He noted that numerous countries have seen marked increases in hospital admissions and deaths.
“The epidemic is now peaking or moving towards a peak in a number of large countries,” he warned.