US governors retract virus reopening plans

Coronavirus cases in the United States have risen by more 48,000, a new daily record.
Coronavirus cases in the United States have risen by more 48,000, a new daily record.

Governors of US states hit hardest by the resurgent coronavirus have moved to halt or reverse steps to reopen their economies, led by California, the nation's most populous state and a new epicentre of the pandemic.

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday ordered the closure of bars, bans on indoor dining at restaurants and restrictions on other indoor operations in 19 counties, affecting over 70 per cent of the state's population.

"The spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning," said Newsom, a first-term Democrat.

The move in California, the first US state to impose sweeping "stay-at-home" restrictions on its residents in March, will likely inflict more financial pain on the owners of bars and restaurants who have struggled to survive the pandemic.

The epicentre of the country's COVID-19 epidemic has moved from the Northeast to California, Arizona and New Mexico in the West along with Texas, Florida and Georgia.

Texas again topped its previous record on Wednesday with 8076 new cases, while South Carolina reported 24 more coronavirus deaths, its single-day high. Tennessee and Alaska also had record numbers of new cases on Wednesday.

New cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, shot up by nearly 50,000 on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, marking the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Grisham, a Democrat, on Wednesday extended the state's emergency public health order through July 15, saying that authorities would "aggressively" enforce mandatory mask rules.

"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," 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," de Blasio told reporters.

With the US death toll at nearly 128,000, a Reuters/Ipsos June 29-30 poll found that 81 per cent of American adults were "very" or "somewhat" concerned about the pandemic, the most since a similar poll conducted May 11-12.

Roughly seven in 10 Republicans said they were personally concerned about the virus' spread, up from six in 10 in previous polls.

About nine in 10 Democrats said they are similarly worried, a level of concern that has not changed.

Conservatives have generally been less willing to wear masks or follow other restrictions imposed by local authorities to stop the spread of the virus as the issue has become increasingly politicised.

President Donald Trump, who has been reluctant to don a mask himself, told the Fox Business Network on Wednesday that he used face coverings when in close quarters with other people, but did not think mask-wearing needed to be mandatory.

Trump administration officials have partly blamed the surge in cases on increased testing, but there has also been a rise in the percentage of positive tests and hospitalisations, although not as sharp.

Australian Associated Press