NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wisconsin, where US President Donald Trump will hold weekend rallies, registered a record increase in new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, while the state New York reported an alarming increase in positive coronavirus testing at 20 ‘hot spots. ‘
The 3,000 new infections reported in Wisconsin have covered fears that so many new patients could overwhelm hospitals. Florida, which has four times as many people as Wisconsin, reported 2,628 new cases on Thursday.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has issued an emergency order simplifying licensing policies in a bid to boost the number of health care workers dealing with the escalating crisis.
“Our emergency department had a lot of opportunities last week where it was past capacity and needed to put patients to beds in the hallways,” said Bellin Health, which operates a hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in a statement. Its intensive care unit is full, or almost full, within a week, it said.
Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said the state outbreak began with young people and has now spread throughout the community.
“Public gatherings of any kind are dangerous today, more so than at any time during this epidemic,” he told CNN on Thursday.
Signs that the pandemic in the High West is getting worse. Wisconsin and North Dakota both reported a record number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Thursday, while South Dakota also reported a number of new cases.
New COVID-19 cases rose to 27 out of 50 U.S. states in September compared to August, with a 111% increase in Wisconsin, according to a Reuters analysis.
In New York, which partnered with the rampant global outbreak earlier this year, officials said they were concerned about clusters of cases in 20 areas across the state, where the average rate of positive reviews rose to 6.5% from 5.5% last day.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy have urged residents to download to their smartphones a new voluntary contact-tracing app launched Thursday. The app, COVID Alert, uses Bluetooth technology to tell users if they have recently come across someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.
Many of New York’s 20 hot spots – half of which are in New York City – include Orthodox Jewish communities. Cuomo said he spoke to community leaders about implementing social reform measures.
“A cluster today could be spread in the community tomorrow,” Cuomo said in an interview with reporters. “These zip codes are not hermetically sealed.”
He appealed to local authorities to increase enforcement measures. “If they are not wearing masks, they should be fined,” Cuomo said.
Wisconsin health officials are urging residents to stay home and avoid large gatherings ahead of Trump’s weekend rally in Janesville and Green Bay to run until the Nov. 3 election.
An internal Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June likely contributed to the subsequent increase in cases there, city health officials said.
Beyond the Midwest, western states are also facing spikes in coronavirus cases. Montana on Thursday reported an increase in the record of cases for the second day in a row and there is a record number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Maria Caspani in New York and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Rosalba O’Brien