June 14, 2020 / 2:41 PM / 2 months ago

Record spikes in new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations sweep parts of U.S.

June 14 (Reuters) - New coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in record numbers swept through more U.S. states, including Florida and Texas, as most push ahead with reopening and President Donald Trump plans an indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Alabama, Florida and South Carolina reported a record number of new cases for the third day in a row on Saturday, which many state health officials partly attribute to gatherings over the Memorial Day holiday weekend in late May.

Oklahoma reported record new cases for the second day in a row, and Alaska did so for the first time in weeks. Arizona and Nevada reported a near-record number of new cases.

In Louisiana, which had been one of the earlier virus hotspots, new cases were again on the rise with over 1,200 - the most there since May 21.

Nationally, there were over 25,000 new cases reported on Saturday, the highest tally for a Saturday since May 2, in part due to a significant increase in testing over the past six weeks.

Perhaps more troubling for health officials is many of these states are also seeing record hospitalizations - a metric not affected by increased testing.

Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas and Utah all had a record number of patients enter the hospital on Saturday. In South Carolina, 69% to 77% of hospital beds are occupied, depending on the region.

While Utah’s governor announced last week that most of the state would pause its reopening, no state is talking about a second shutdown as they face budget shortfalls and double-digit unemployment. Many went ahead with reopenings before meeting government infection rate guidelines for doing so.

Fears that a second wave of infections is happening - or that states failed to curb their first wave - prompted health officials to plead with the public to wear masks and avoid large gatherings.

Trump still plans to hold his first campaign rally since early March on Saturday in Tulsa, although those attending will have to agree not to hold the campaign responsible if they contract COVID-19.

About a third of the record new cases in the state came from Tulsa County, according to state data. The Tulsa Health Department on Friday said the outbreak was linked to indoor gatherings. Hospitalizations and the percent of tests coming back positive have been steady in the state.

“I have concerns about large groups of people gathering indoors for prolonged lengths of time. It is imperative that anyone who chooses to host or attend a gathering take the steps to stay safe,” said Bruce Dart, the department’s executive director, in a statement that advised people at gatherings to wear masks.

Trump has refused to wear a mask at a series of recent public events.

Reporting by Lisa Shumaker in Chicago Editing by Bill Berkrot

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