America’s disturbing virus stat
Florida set a record with more than 15,000 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the last 24 hours, bringing its total to 269,811.
Let's put that number into perspective. If Florida were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for the most new cases in a day behind the United States, Brazil and India.
The US recorded 62,653 cases of the virus nationally. This means Florida, which is 6.5 per cent of the US population, makes up almost a quarter of all its cases.
New York, once considered the epicentre of the US outbreak, recorded just 727 cases yesterday.
The closest it came to Florida's new high was by recording 12,847 cases on April 10, as much of the world was scrambling to implement social distancing measures for the first time.
Florida's daily increases in cases have already surpassed the highest daily tally reported by any European country during the height of the pandemic there.
WHY WAS FLORIDA HIT SO HARD?
Experts say Florida was among a number of US states which opened up too quickly, allowing the virus to come back.
Speaking on Podcast-19, America's top infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci said states like Florida and Arizona ignored the recommended guidelines on how to reopen, proceeding too quickly to get their economies moving again.
"Certainly Florida I know jumped over a couple of checkpoints," Dr Fauci said.
"It's pretty obvious that in some states, the governors or the mayors essentially jumped over the guidelines and the checkpoints, and opened up a little bit too soon. They were not prepared to deal with the resurgences that they saw."
He said young people in particular "threw caution to the wind, and you see films of people very densely congregated at bars and in areas where they're not looking at social distancing or wearing masks".
"I think what we're seeing right now are the results of that, in four states that are accounting for 50 per cent of new infections."
The four states Dr Fauci was referring to were Florida, Arizona, California and Texas.
On Saturday, Disney World reopened two of its four Orlando theme parks, even as Florida reported 10,360 new infections and 95 deaths that day.
Visitors were required to undergo temperature checks, and hand sanitiser was widely available.
So-called "pandemic parties" have also been raging across the state, according to local newspaper The Sun Sentinel.
The median age of those infected in the state has plummeted from 65 years old at the beginning of March to 39 last week, suggesting younger, healthier people are transmitting the virus.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez singled out young partygoers for accelerating the spread.
"We saw a rapid rise in young people … being positive to COVID-19 around mid-June," he told CBS News in June. "I think that that had a lot to do with probably socialising, young kids going to parties, maybe graduation parties at homes, because it's been pretty locked down here for some time."
'DIVISIVENESS' BLAMED FOR AMERICA'S COVID CASES
In the same podcast, Dr Fauci partly blamed the atmosphere of political divisiveness in the country, including the way masks were initially shunned by leaders.
"As a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don't think you can say we're doing great," Dr Fauci said.
"I think you'd have to make the assumption that if there wasn't such divisiveness, that we would have a more co-ordinated approach."
President Donald Trump has largely ignored social distancing advice, pushing ahead with his rallies and notably shunning wearing a mask until this weekend.
He visited Florida on Friday, ignoring health advice about the dangers of large gatherings as he ramps up public appearances ahead of the election.
Former vice president Joe Biden, who is running against Mr Trump in November, blasted the President's visit.
"With over 232,000 cases in the state and over 4000 deaths in Florida, it is clear that Trump's response - ignore, blame others, and distract - has come at the expense of Florida families," he said.
The administration has downplayed the spike, with Mr Trump repeatedly attributing it entirely to higher levels of testing.
"We do testing like nobody's ever done testing. And when we test, the more you test, the more cases you find," he told Fox News.
Experts however say this explanation is inadequate, because the number of people hospitalised and the percentage of people testing positive is also rising in many states.
The death rate remains well below levels of earlier peaks in late April and May, partly because the US epidemic has grown younger and there are better treatments available.
- With wires
Originally published as America's disturbing virus stat