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Reports of new infections poured in at alarming levels on Saturday as the coronavirus continued to tear through the United States. Six states reported their highest-ever infection totals and more than 76,000 new cases had been announced by evening, one day after the country shattered its single-day record with more than 85,000 new cases.
The country’s case total on Saturday, which was sure to rise through the evening as more states reported data, was already the fifth highest in a single day. Case numbers on weekends are often lower because some states and counties do not report new data, so the high numbers on Saturday gave reason for alarm.
“This is exploding all over the country,” said Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky, whose state is among 16 that have added more cases in the past week than in any other seven-day stretch. “We’ve got to tamp down these cases. The more cases, the more people that end up in the hospital and the more people die.”
Officials in Alaska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Illinois announced more new cases on Saturday than on any other day of the pandemic.
Rural areas and small metropolitan regions have seen some of the worst outbreaks in recent weeks, but by Saturday, many large cities were struggling as well.
The counties that include Chicago, Oklahoma City, Minneapolis, Anchorage and El Paso all set single-day records on Saturday. Across the country, hospitalizations have grown by about 40 percent since last month, and they continued to rise on Saturday. Around Chicago, where new restrictions on bars and other businesses took effect Friday, more than twice as many cases are now being identified each day than at the start of October.
“This moment is a critical inflection point for Chicago,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said.
States in the Midwest and Mountain West have been reporting some of the country’s most discouraging statistics, but worrisome upticks are occurring all over. New cases have emerged at or near record levels recently in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas and New Mexico.
“Over the next week, two weeks, three weeks, please be extremely conservative in deciding how much time to spend outside of the home,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico said Friday as she imposed new restrictions on businesses. “The visit to friends can wait — it’s not worth your life, or theirs.”
Experts worry that the growing numbers in need of hospital care will only get worse if cases continue to mount, especially in rural areas where medical facilities could be quickly overwhelmed.
The high case count in part reflects increased testing. With about one million people tested on many days, the country is getting a far more accurate picture of how widely the virus has spread than it did in the spring.