Donald Trump has again said he thinks COVID-19 will “just disappear” eventually, even as the US posts a record daily tally of infections and several states return to hard lockdowns.
“We’re heading back in a very strong fashion, with a V. And I think we’re going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think at some point that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope,” Mr Trump told Fox Business on Wednesday (US time).
The President’s view was despite the US posting 48,000 coronavirus infections on Tuesday – its biggest increase yet. Two of the hardest hit states, California and Texas, each had 8000 confirmed cases.
Many other states are posting record numbers, prompting governors to bring in or return to restrictions to try to quell the virus’ spread.
On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered the closure of bars, bans on indoor dining at restaurants and restrictions on other indoor operations in 19 counties, affecting more than 70 per cent of the state’s 28 million people.
It came days after authorities said they would close beaches across California for the July 3-6 Independence Day holiday weekend.
“The spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” Mr Newsom, a first-term Democrat, said.
In mid-March, California was the first US state to impose sweeping “stay-at-home” restrictions. It had been opening up in recent weeks, and the return of stricter orders is likely to inflict more financial pain on business owners, who have struggled to survive the pandemic.
The US has one of the world’s highest coronavirus infection tallies (closing in on three million), and nearly 130,000 people have died.
The epicentre of the epidemic has moved from the north-east to California, Arizona and New Mexico in the west, along with Texas, Florida and Georgia.
On Wednesday, South Carolina reported 24 more coronavirus deaths – a single-day high. Tennessee and Alaska also had record numbers of new cases.
On the same day, New Mexico Governor Michelle Grisham, a Democrat, extended the state’s emergency public health order to July 15. Authorities would “aggressively” enforce mandatory mask rules, she said.
“I want to be as clear as I can possibly be – New Mexico, in this moment, still has the power to change the terrible trajectory of this virus,” Ms Grisham said.
“But our time is limited. And we are staring down the barrel of what Texas, Arizona and many other hard-hit states are grappling with.”
Indiana’s Republican Governor Eric Holcomb halted his state’s phased reopening until at least mid-July.
“We just have to accept the fact … that again this virus is on the prowl and it is moving, and it’s moving even within our borders,” he said.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat whose city was for months at the centre of the US outbreak, said he would postpone a plan to allow indoor restaurant dining on Monday.
“We see a lot of problems and we particularly see problems revolving around people going back to bars and restaurants indoors, and indoors is the problem more and more,” Mr de Blasio said.
With the death toll continuing to rise, a Reuters/Ipsos on June 29-30 poll found that 81 per cent of American adults were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the pandemic. That was the highest number since a similar poll conducted on May 11-12.
Many Americans, particularly conservatives, have unwilling to wear masks or follow other restrictions imposed by local authorities to stop the spread of the virus, and the issue has become increasingly politicised.
Mr Trump has previously been reluctant to don a mask himself. He told Fox Business that he now covered his face when close to other people, but did not think mask-wearing should be mandatory.
“I’m all for masks. I think masks are good. People have seen me wearing one,” Mr Trump said.
“It was a dark black mask, and I thought it looked OK … It looked like the Lone Ranger.”
Trump administration officials have partly blamed the surge in cases on increased testing. There has also been a rise in positive tests and hospitalisations, although not as sharp.