The United States reported a record of more than 500,000 new coronavirus cases over the past week, as states and cities resorted to stricter measures to contain the virus that is raging across the country, especially the American heartland.
The record was broken Tuesday, even as the Trump administration announced what it called its first-term scientific accomplishments, in a press release that included “ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC” written in bold, capital letters.
The record reflects how quickly the virus is spreading. It took nearly three months for the first 500,000 coronavirus cases to be tallied in the United States — the first was confirmed Jan. 21, and the country did not reach the half-million mark until April 11. Testing was severely limited in the early days of the pandemic.
The new restrictions range from a nightly business curfew in Newark, New Jersey, to a two-week stay-at-home order in El Paso, Texas, to a halt in indoor dining in Chicago.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday that he was stopping indoor dining and bar service in Chicago, effective at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
The city joins New York and Wisconsin, states that earlier this month issued restrictions or outright bans on indoor dining in restaurants and bars to limit the spread of the virus. The restrictions have been loudly opposed by a restaurant industry that has been decimated by the pandemic.
Chicago is averaging more than twice as many coronavirus-related hospital admissions per day as it was a month ago, Pritzker’s office said, and the share of tests that are coming back positive has almost doubled since the beginning of October.
The U.S. has reported a record daily average of about 71,000 new cases over the past week, an increase of about 40% from the average two weeks earlier. Eighteen states, including Illinois, have recorded their highest seven-day average of new cases, and three states (Tennessee, Wisconsin and Oklahoma) have set a record seven-day average for deaths. On Tuesday, Oklahoma and Wyoming broke single-day death records and Kentucky reported a new daily cases record.
Pritzker’s announcement follows a similar indoor dining ban that includes southern Cook County, just outside Chicago, which was announced Monday.
In Chicago, outdoor service will be allowed if tables are spaced 6 feet apart; reservations are required, and service shuts down at 11 p.m. All social gatherings in the city will be limited to 25 people or 25% of the venue’s capacity, whichever is less.
“We can’t ignore what is happening around us,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Because without action, this could look worse than anything we saw in the spring.”