BELGRADE – Hospitals rapidly approached capacity across the Sunbelt, and the Miami area closed indoor dining at restaurants and gyms again because of the surging coronavirus Monday, as the U.S. emerged from a Fourth of July weekend of picnics, pool parties and beach outings that health officials fear could fuel the rapidly worsening outbreak.
The seesaw effect — restrictions lifted, then reimposed — has been seen around the country in recent weeks and is expected again after a holiday that saw crowds of people celebrating, many without masks.
“We were concerned before the weekend and remain concerned post-holiday, as anecdotal stories and observed behavior indicate that many continue to disregard important protective guidance,” said Heather Woolwine, a spokeswoman for the Medical University of South Carolina.
Confirmed cases are on the rise in 41 out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is increasing in 39 states.
Florida, which recorded an all-time high of 11,400 new cases Saturday and has seen its positive test rate lately reach more than 18%, has been hit especially hard, along with other Sunbelt states such as Arizona, California and Texas.
A virus outbreak in the California Legislature indefinitely delayed the state Assembly’s return to work from a scheduled summer recess. Five people including Assemblywoman Autumn Burke tested positive. Coronavirus hospitalizations in California have increased 56% in the past two weeks while the number of confirmed cases has jumped 53%.
In Miami-Dade County, population 2.7 million, Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered the closing of restaurants to indoor dining and certain other indoor places, including vacation rentals, seven weeks after they were allowed to reopen. Gimenez had initially said that restaurants would be closed to all dining but in a statement Monday evening the mayor said that after meeting with medical experts and a restaurant industry group that his emergency order “will allow for outdoor dining, where possible, to continue with restrictions.” Beaches will reopen on Tuesday after being closed over the weekend.
“But if we see crowding and people not following the public health rules, I will be forced to close the beaches again,” the mayor warned.