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Arizona, Florida, Texas are the latest coronavirus epicenters

With virus cases spiking in Houston, anxious residents lined up Sunday for testing at United Memorial Medical Center.
With virus cases spiking in Houston, anxious residents lined up Sunday for testing at United Memorial Medical Center.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The world surpassed two sobering coronavirus milestones Sunday — 500,000 confirmed deaths, 10 million confirmed cases — and hit another high mark for daily new infections as governments that attempted reopenings continued to backtrack and warn that worse news could be yet to come.

“COVID-19 has taken a very swift and very dangerous turn in Texas over just the past few weeks,” said Governor Greg Abbott, who allowed businesses to start reopening in early May but on Friday shut down bars and limited restaurant dining amid a spike in cases.

California Governor Gavin Newsom rolled back reopenings of bars in seven counties, including Los Angeles. He ordered them to close immediately and urged eight other counties to issue local health orders mandating the same.

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More Florida beaches will be closing again to avoid further spread of the coronavirus as officials try to tamp down on large gatherings amid a spike in COVID-19 cases. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said interactions among young people are driving the surge.

South Africa’s health minister warned that the country’s current surge of cases is expected to rapidly increase in the coming weeks and push hospitals to the limit. Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said the current rise in infections has come from people who “moved back into the workplace.’’

New clusters of cases at a Swiss nightclub and in the central English city of Leicester showed that the virus was still circulating widely in Europe, though not with the rapidly growing infection rate seen in parts of the United States, Latin America, and India.

Poland and France, meanwhile, attempted a step toward normalcy as they held elections that had been delayed by the virus.

The World Health Organization announced another daily record in the number of confirmed cases across the world, topping over 189,000 in a 24-hour period. The tally eclipses the previous record a week earlier at over 183,000 cases.

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About 1 in 4 of the worldwide deaths — more than 125,000 — have been reported in the United States. The country with the next highest death toll is Brazil, with more than 57,000, or about 1 in 9.

The true death toll from the virus, which first emerged in China late last year, is widely believed to be significantly higher.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said Sunday the wearing of face masks should be mandatory nationwide.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Sunday bobbed and weaved around questions about the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19 as well as the president’s refusal to wear a mask.

On CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union,’’ Azar argued, as President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have lately, that the uptick in infections is because of expansive testing of even some asymptomatic cases and tried to focus on fatality numbers, which he said are the lowest in two months.

However, in multiple states, the rate of new cases has increased faster than the rise in the average number of tests.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Azar said, ‘‘I’m the president’s secretary of health. I’m telling you to practice social distancing . . . wear a face covering.’’ He noted Pence showed up onstage in a face mask last week. As for Trump, Azar said the president is in a unique position ‘‘as leader of the free world.’’ Azar said Trump is ‘‘tested constantly’’ and has issued ‘‘presidential guidelines.’’

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In Texas, Abbott appeared with Pence, who cut campaign events from upcoming visits to Florida and Arizona because of rising virus cases in those states.

Pence praised Abbott for both his decision to reopen the state and to roll back those plans.

“You flattened the curve here in Texas . . . but about two weeks ago something changed,” Pence said.

He and Abbott wore face masks as they entered and left the room, taking them off while speaking to reporters.

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign criticized Pence’s trip to Texas Sunday, saying in a statement that his decision to go ahead with events there ‘‘epitomizes the dismissive attitude this administration has taken in addressing this crisis from the onset.’’

Texas has scaled back reopening measures as severely ill patients continue to overwhelm hospitals in some parts. It set a record for coronavirus-related hospitalizations for the 16th day in a row on Saturday, with 5,523 patients being treated. In Arizona, health officials also reported a record, with 2,577 current hospitalizations.

Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned Sunday that the coronavirus outbreaks in states that eased restrictions will continue to worsen in the next few weeks as figures tend to lag.

Frieden forecast in an interview with Chris Wallace on ‘‘Fox News Sunday’’ that the United States will see at least 15,000 new COVID-19-related deaths in the next several weeks in states that reopened, particularly Southern and Western states. He listed states, including South Carolina, Florida, and Texas, that eased restrictions and then experienced recent spikes.

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‘‘If you open when cases are still increasing, as many states did, it’s like leaning into a left hook,’’ Frieden said. ‘‘You’re going to get hit hard. And that’s what’s happening.’’

Conflicting with Trump’s claims that increased testing is the reason for the spikes, Frieden told Wallace that the positive cases identified through testing are only ‘‘a tip of the iceberg.’’

‘‘As a doctor, a scientist, an epidemiologist, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that in most states where you’re seeing an increase, it is a real increase,’’ he said. ‘‘It is not more tests, it is more spread of the virus.’’

Testing sites in Arizona, Florida, and Texas have become a source of tension and risk, with numerous residents waiting in long lines, and others being turned away as sites reached capacity, The New York Times reported. At some centers, anxious people were rushing to the front of the line, raising the risk of infection transmission.

In Houston, meanwhile, the city’s paramedics said they are facing hourlong wait times when transferring patients from the ambulance to the hospital.

Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña told KHOU that transfer times had doubled or tripled in some cases as the department grapples with spiking calls for service and a shortage of first responders.

‘‘The longer it takes us to service those critical calls, it is going to cost us lives,’’ he told the news station. ‘‘Our system is getting strained.’’

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Hospital intensive care units at Houston’s Texas Medical Center were hovering near 100 percent capacity, and health officials reported record hospitalizations statewide.

‘‘The time is now for everybody to dramatically change their behaviors to get this virus under control, so that our hospitals for the weeks to come are there and able to handle this,” said Marc Boom, president of Houston Methodist Hospital, which is part of the Texas Medical Center campus.


Material from The Washington Post and the Associated Press was used in this report.