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Coronavirus hospitalizations rise sharply in several states following Memorial Day

The United States surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases on Wednesday, according to a New York Times database, which showed that the outbreak was continuing to spread, with cases rising in 21 states as governments eased restrictions and Americans tried to return to their routines.

Despite improvement in states that were initially hit hard, such as New York, new hot spots have emerged in others, including Arizona, where an increase in cases and hospitalizations has alarmed local officials.

Arizona tourist sites were packed for Memorial Day weekend. Lake Havasu, a popular vacation destination, was full, according to local officials.

More than a dozen states and Puerto Rico are recording their highest averages of new cases since the pandemic began and hospitalizations in at least nine states have been on the rise since Memorial Day.

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In Texas, North and South Carolina, California, Oregon, Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah, and Arizona, there are an increasing number of patients under supervised care since the holiday weekend because of COVID-19 infections. The spikes generally began in the past couple weeks and in most states are trending higher.

Data from states that are now reporting some of their highest seven-day averages of new cases are disproving the notion that the country is seeing such a spike in cases solely because of the continued increase in testing, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

Cases in Arizona, one of the earliest states to ease restrictions, have been rising in recent days, with the state reporting 1,556 cases on Wednesday, a new daily high.

Banner Health, a major hospital system, warned this month that hospitalizations in the state had been increasing and that “most concerning is the steep incline of COVID-19 patients on ventilators.” A PowerPoint the hospital prepared showed new cases mounting two weeks after the state’s stay-at-home order was lifted and social distancing eased.

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In early May, Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona began easing restrictions, starting with retail businesses and then barbershops and restaurants. President Trump traveled to Phoenix on May 5 and spoke at a Honeywell mask production facility, where he praised the nation’s move toward reopening: “So, reopening of our country — who would have ever thought we were going to be saying that?” The state’s stay-at-home order ended May 15. Trump said on Wednesday that he intended to hold a rally in Arizona.

Dr. Joe Gerald, a researcher at the University of Arizona, analyzed recent virus trends and wrote that “the true pace of viral transmission likely increased around the first week of May,” when social-distancing orders began to be relaxed. He added that there was compelling evidence of increasing community transmission, driven by trends in Yuma, Maricopa, Pima, and Santa Cruz Counties.

Ducey had ordered the state’s hospitals to increase capacity by 50 percent at the end of March to meet a potential surge in virus cases, said Ann-Marie Alameddin, the chief executive of the Arizona Hospital Association.

The surge did not materialize, but the number of virus patients has doubled since May, with more people showing up in the emergency rooms and testing positive. “Hospital capacity is increasingly strained,” Alameddin said, although the state developed a system to transfer patients to lessen the load in any one location. “Hospital capacity is not limitless,” she said. “It’s a scarce resource.”

In Alaska, where new case reports had slowed to a trickle in May, the number is among the state’s worst since the start of the pandemic. There have been more than 100 new cases in the last week alone, bringing the state’s total since the beginning of March to 620. Recent outbreaks have been reported among seafood workers and ferry crew members. The state reported on Tuesday its first virus death in more than a month.

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In Iowa, where cases have been on a downward trajectory, the Iowa State Fair — a favorite destination for political candidates, tourists, and Butter Cow enthusiasts — announced on Wednesday that it would not be held this year. Iowa has seen at least 22,520 cases. The state fair was canceled Wednesday for the first time since World War II.

Some parts of the South are finally showing signs of progress. New case reports have started trending downward in Alabama and leveled off in Mississippi.

But persistent growth continues in Arkansas, North Carolina, and Florida.

Arkansas has reported 10,080 cases, and in 11 of the past 15 days the state’s average new case number has hit a high. It has had an 88 percent increase in new hospitalizations since Memorial Day. Arkansas had 173 hospitalizations reported on Tuesday, compared with 92 on May 25.

In North Carolina, restaurants were allowed to open at reduced capacity, public pools at 50 percent capacity during Memorial Day weekend.

And in South Carolina, there have been nearly 1,000 new cases in the last two days. Entertainment venues like zoos, aquariums, water parks, etc., were allowed to open the weekend ahead of Memorial Day.

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New York Times

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Washington Post

Maine renews state of emergency for 30 days

Citing the “dangerous” coronavirus, Maine Governor Janet Mills, a Democrat, renewed the state of emergency Wednesday for an additional 30 days. The third extension of the State of Civil Emergency since the start of the pandemic will continue to authorize the use of emergency powers for Maine in response to the virus until July 10.

“It is important for all of us to remember that this dangerous, highly contagious and untreatable virus is still all around us,” Mills said in a statement announcing the renewal.

In rural parts of Maine, the state has eased restrictions in that restaurants can offer dine-in service in most of the state’s 16 counties. However, the more populous counties of York, Cumberland, and Androscoggin, which account for 1,801 of the state’s 2,350 confirmed cases, have remained under closure limitations until infections decline. Earlier in the week, a group of four restaurant owners in Southern Maine filed a lawsuit against Mills, claiming the governor’s reopening plan overstepped her authority.

On Friday, President Trump visited the state and toured the Puritan Medical Products plant in Guilford. He did not wear a facial covering at the plant that manufactures swabs for coronavirus testing. According to USA Today, the plant disposed of all the swabs that were made during the president’s tour. The company did not explain why the swabs had to be trashed.

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Washington Post