The US state of Florida surpassed its daily record for coronavirus deaths amid rising global worries of a resurgence, even as researchers announced that the first vaccine tested in the US had worked to boost patients’ immune systems.
Florida’s 132 additional deaths topped a state mark set just last week.
The figure likely includes deaths from the past weekend that had not been previously reported.
The new deaths raised the state’s seven-day average to 81 per day, more than double the figure of two weeks ago and now the second-highest in the United States behind Texas.
The worrisome figures were released just hours before the news about the experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc.
“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease expert, said.
Key final testing of the vaccine will start around July 27, tracking 30,000 people to prove if the shots really work in preventing infection.
Tuesday’s announcement focused on findings since March in 45 volunteers.
With the virus spreading quickly in the southern and western US, one of the country’s top public health officials offered conflicting theories about what is driving the outbreak.
“We tried to give states guidance on how to reopen safely. …If you look critically, few states actually followed that guidance,” Dr Robert Redfield, the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday in a livestream interview with the editor of the Journal Of The American Medical Association.
Dr Redfield said people in many states did not adopt social distancing and other measures because they had not previously experienced an outbreak.
But he went on to say, without explanation, that he did not believe the way those states handled reopening was necessarily behind the explosive rise in virus cases.
He offered a theory that infected travellers from elsewhere in the country might have brought the virus with them around Memorial Day.
Doctors in Florida have predicted more deaths as daily reported cases have surged from about 2,000 a day a month ago to a daily average of about 11,000, including a record 15,000 on Sunday.
The state recorded 9,194 new cases on Tuesday.
Marlyn Hoilette, a nurse who spent four months working in the Covid-19 unit of her Florida hospital until testing positive recently, said hospitals are so desperate for staff to return to work they are not following guidelines that call for two negative tests first.
“Nurses are getting sick, nursing assistants are getting sick and my biggest fear is that it seems we want to return folks to work even without a negative test,” said Ms Hoilette, who works at Palms West Hospital in Loxahatchee, Florida.
“It’s just a matter of time before you wipe the other staff out if you’re contagious, so that is a big problem.”