MARGARET NEWKIRK, JONATHAN LEVIN
AND MICHELLE FAY CORTEZ
The COVID-19 pandemic, which set records for infections and hospitalizations across the U.S. on Wednesday, is now predicted to kill 180,000 Americans by October, adding to dire signs that prompted a stock-market selloff and drastic measures from government leaders.
The U.S. is again approaching its all-time high for daily new cases, 36,188, set April 24 as the New York area was ravaged. The daunting new numbers reflect the virus’s inexorable spread in some states that were slow to enforce lockdowns or quick to lift them.
They made clear to places where the disease was late to arrive that there are no magical escapes.
Record high states
California, Florida and Texas each hit records for new cases Wednesday, while Arizona is at a peak in hospitalizations. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut set quarantines for incoming travelers from the hot zones, and North Carolina froze its reopening for three weeks.
Markets took note. The S&P 500 plunged 2.6%, led lower by energy and airline stocks, while yields on Treasuries fell.
Thomas Giordano, chief of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, compared the outbreak to a wildfire that started in the northern corners of the U.S. and slowly spread south.
“As people started emerging and businesses started opening, it was like oxygen for those embers and it’s stoked the fire,” he said. “It’s been burning in Texas and other places in the South without any changes in policy. I do worry that this is going to run wild.”
The fresh estimate of deaths by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation was actually about 10% lower than a previous model. But after months of lockdown without a unified national strategy, more than 121,000 Americans have died already.
The Trump administration has largely left policymaking to the states, which have followed strategies ranging from tight lockdowns in Northeast to relative laissez-faire in the South and West.
In California, which was early to enact statewide shelter-in-place rules in March, Gov. Gavin Newsom urged residents to recommit to slowing the pandemic.
Newsom, who last week issued an order requiring face masks in public, said too many people were letting down their guard against the virus, which has killed more than 5,600 people in the state.
California has recorded record numbers of confirmed infections and hospitalizations this week, as more businesses open and social justice demonstrations continue.
“We cannot continue to do what we have done over the last number of weeks,” Newsom said in a press conference Wednesday, after the state reported more than 7,100 new cases. “Many of us, understandably, developed a little cabin fever. Some, I would argue, have developed a little amnesia.”
In Florida, leaders rushed to pass mask mandates and crack down on the bars and nightclubs where the pandemic is spreading, including a threat to pull liquor licenses in Orlando.
Texas posted its worst day so far for new cases, with a jump of 5,551 to 125,921, according to the state health department. The 4.6% one-day rise exceeded the 3.7% sevenday average. Hospitalizations climbed by 7.3% to 4,389, the data showed.
“Our infrastructure is overwhelmed,” David Persse, Houston’s director of emergency medical services, said during a media briefing Wednesday.