WASHINGTON – The United States saw its coronavirus death toll top 150,000 on Wednesday as the emergence of new hot spots in the West and South pushed the number of confirmed cases to 4.39 million, according to the independent tally maintained by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
With less than five percent of the global population, the US accounts for nearly 23 percent of the world’s COVID-19 fatalities and more than a quarter of infections.
California, the most populous state, has 473,785 cases, followed by Florida, with 451,413; Texas, 417,471; and New York, which has 413,593 confirmed infections but continues to lead the nation in deaths with 32,333.
The Golden State set a new one-day record for deaths on Tuesday with 174, bringing the total to 8,716.
Most new infections in California, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom, are among workers in businesses deemed essential, such as agriculture, manufacturing, logistics and supermarkets.
“Extinguishing COVID-19 depends on our ability to keep our essential workers safe,” he said recently. “This is where we’re seeing the spread.”
The United Farm Workers union said that many of its members can’t afford to take time off even when they’re sick.
The people who harvest California’s fruit and vegetables are likewise reluctant to complain about unsafe working conditions out of fear they will be fired, the union said.
This week, health officials in Los Angeles County shut down three food industry firms for ignoring a requirement to notify authorities when they had three or more coronavirus cases.
At least 40 employees were infected in each of the facilities, the county health department said.
Since the start of the pandemic, 246 establishments in the county, including businesses, universities and government offices, have reported three or more cases, adding up to more than 3,000 infections, the Los Angeles Times said.
The county’s largest single outbreak – upwards of 300 cases resulting in four fatalities – led to the temporary shutdown of Los Angeles Apparel, a garment factory.
Florida saw a record 271 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, though the number of new infections remained below 10,000 for the second consecutive day.
The death toll in the Sunshine State stands at 6,332, while Florida’s hospitals were treating 8,793 coronavirus patients on Wednesday.
In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey announced on Wednesday that she was extending until Aug. 31 the statewide requirement to wear masks in public she first imposed on July 16.
“We must remain vigilant if we’re going to get our kids back in schools & keep our economy open. Wearing a mask can’t hurt but can only help. It’s a way to protect yourself as well as others you work with, care about & even love,” the governor tweeted.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a day after barring restaurants from serving alcohol after 11:00 pm, said that the state’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus are bearing fruit.
“Actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 are starting to have an impact, but we need to double down,” he wrote on Twitter. “For now, let’s stick together and do what we know works to prevent disease spread while supporting each other. And that is how we will make it through.”