US COVID-19 cases hit two-month high; 10 states report record increases

SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

New cases of COVID-19 in the US hit a two-month high with over 58,000 infections reported and hospitalisations in the Midwest at record levels for the fifth day in a row.

Ten of the 50 states reported record one-day rises in cases on Friday, including the Midwestern states of Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio. Wisconsin and Illinois recorded over 3,000 new cases for a second day in a row - a two-day trend not seen even during the height of the previous outbreak in the spring, according to Reuters data.

The Western states of Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming also reported their biggest one-day jumps in cases, as did Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Nineteen states have seen record increases in new cases so far in October. 

Amid the resurgence in cases across the nation, President Donald Trump, who recently contracted COVID-19, addressed his supporters from the balcony of the White House on Saturday, a prelude to restarting his re-election campaign.

He is scheduled to travel on Monday to Florida.

Trump and his administration have faced criticism for their handling of the pandemic that has claimed over 213,000 lives in the country, as well as for a lax approach to mask-wearing and social distancing in the White House.

While deaths nationally continue to trend downward, the US is losing on average 700 lives a day. Three states reported a record one-day increase in fatalities on Friday: Arkansas, Missouri and Montana. Health experts caution that deaths are a lagging indicator and usually rise weeks after cases climb.

The number of people who succumb to COVID-19 is expected to accelerate this winter.

The country's daily death rate is projected to more than triple by mid-January to 2,250, with an overall 395,000 fatalities by February 1, 2021, according to a new update of the University of Washington's widely-cited model.

But if Americans increase their wearing of masks to the level seen in Singapore, the February 1 death toll would drop to 316,000, saving 79,000 lives, according to the University's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, whose model has been cited by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Currently, there is no federal mandate to wear a mask, and 17 states do not require them, according to a Reuters analysis.

In addition to rising cases, hospitals in several states are straining to handle an influx of patients.

Seven states on Friday reported record numbers of hospitalised COVID-19 patients: Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

In the Midwest, hospitalisations rose to nearly 9,000, continuing a streak of records that began on Monday. 

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