THE United States has shattered its single-day record for new coronavirus infections for the 11th time in the past month.
More than 77,000 new cases were reported on Thursday as the number of deaths in a 24-hour period rose by nearly 1,000.
A Reuters tally found that the 969 deaths were the biggest jump since June 10, with Florida, Texas, and South Carolina all reporting their biggest one-day spikes.
Thursday's alarming statistic is nearly 8,000 more than the previous record of 68,261, according to the New York Times.
Reporting 156 deaths, Florida broke its single-day death record for the second time this week.
The Sunshine State became one of nine others – Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas – to hit a record for single-day deaths this week.
Texas and Arizona's hardest-hit areas are running out of space to store bodies as morgues fill up and the city brings in coolers and refrigerated trailers.
But even with skyrocketing cases, the national debate over mask mandates continues to rage on.
More than half of the 50 states have issues mask requirements, including Arkansas, where GOP Gov Asa Hutchinson announced a face-covering requirement on Thursday.
Other Republican leaders have resisted, like Georgia Gov Brian Kemp, who suspended all local mask mandates this week.
Kemp filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Atlanta leaders to challenge their authority on requiring masks within city limits.
More than 138,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and experts including Dr Anthony Fauci warn that case numbers will likely keep surging after Thursday's record spike.
During a live-streamed conversation with Mark Zuckerberg earlier that day, the nation's top infectious disease expert partly blamed the cases spike on states' early reopenings.
Fauci told the Facebook CEO he believed some states "jumped over" their COVID-19 reopening guidelines.
“One of the things that became clear is when you look at what the guidelines were for opening, you know the checkpoints that you have to get past before you go into the next phase, some of them went too quickly and jumped over them,” he said.
"That is a recipe for getting into trouble."
The nation's top disease expert gave credit to state governors for implementing mitigation methods to stop the spread of the virus.
But he also pointed to Americans who flouted reopening rules by flocking to bars and gatherings without wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
"What we saw were clips of people at bars congregating without masks, not staying distant, in crowds," he said.
"And that’s what I believe is at least part of the explanation for why we’ve seen the surges went up."
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