By Maria Caspani and Anurag Maan
NEW YORK (Reuters) – As COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths surge across the United States, more signs emerged that a second wave could engulf areas of the Northeast, which managed to bring the pandemic under control after being battered last spring.
In New Jersey, one of the early U.S. hotspots, a spike in cases in Newark, the state’s largest city, prompted Mayor Ras Baraka to implement aggressive measures, including a mandatory curfew for certain areas, to contain the spread of the virus.
New York state and city officials also reported a worrying rise in the seven-day average infection rate that raised the specter of stricter mitigation measures adopted at the height of the pandemic.
“This is our LAST chance to stop a second wave,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter on Wednesday as he announced the seven-day average positivity rate citywide was 2.52%. The city’s public school system, the largest in the country, would have to shut down if that figure reached 3%.
“We can do it, but we have to act NOW,” he said.
The United States as a whole reported more than 1,450 deaths on Tuesday, the highest single-day count since mid-August, according to a Reuters analysis.
U.S. COVID-19 cases climbed for seven days straight to reach more than 136,000 as of late Tuesday while hospitalizations, a key metric of the pandemic, crossed 60,000 for the first time since the pandemic began.
In Newark, the positivity rate hovered at 19%, more than double the state’s 7.74% seven-day average, Baraka said in a statement released on Tuesday.
“Stricter measures are required in the city’s hotspots in order to contain the virus and limit the spread,” he said.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced some restrictions on Monday in response to a rise in COVID-19 cases in the state, and outbreaks among bartenders.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press release on Tuesday that New York’s positivity rate had climbed above 3% for the first time in weeks.
In Maryland, where the positivity rate stood at 5.6% on Wednesday, officials warned about rising COVID-19 hospitalizations. More than 800 people were being treated for the coronavirus at state hospitals as of Wednesday, according to Mike Ricci, the communications director of Governor Larry Hogan, the highest daily count since April, a Reuters tally showed.
A record number of people died of coronavirus in several Midwest and western states on Tuesday, including in Alaska, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Officials in states hardest-hit by the virus pleaded with residents to stay home as much as possible and heed the advice of experts by wearing masks, washing their hands and social distancing.
“It’s not safe to go out, it’s not safe to have others over — it’s just not safe. And it might not be safe for a while yet,” Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said during a primetime address on Tuesday. “So, please, cancel the happy hours, dinner parties, sleepovers and playdates at your home.”
(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Anurag Maan in Bengaluru, Editing by Nick Macfie)