Only two US states, Vermont and Missouri, have reported falls in the average number of reported coronavirus cases over the past week. The outbreak is surging nearly everywhere else.
Connecticut and Florida lead the nation, with increases of 50% or more. Another 27 states rose between 10% and 50%, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 8.1m cases have been confirmed in the US, killing nearly 220,000 people. On Saturday, the university confirmed another 57,519 cases and 711 deaths.
In the midwest, states including Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are seeing steep rises in case numbers, sourced by public health officials to the reopening of schools and colleges in major cities.
On Sunday, the US health secretary, Alex Azar, blamed the rise in cases on “mitigation fatigue”, before acknowledging more seniors should have worn masks at a Trump campaign event held indoors in Florida on Friday.
“Cases are increasing,” Azar told NBC’s Meet the Press. “We’re seeing this happen because we’re getting colder weather and we’re losing that natural social distancing that happens from being out of doors.”
Donald Trump visited two hotspots this weekend, refusing to talk about the surge at rallies in Michigan and Wisconsin. Michigan reached more than 2,000 daily cases on Thursday and Friday and in Wisconsin weekly cases reached the sixth-highest total since the pandemic first began.
Pressed by a Wisconsin radio station about sending the wrong message, Trump defended holding large rallies.
“I’m not a big shutdown believer,” Trump said, noting that his campaign primarily holds rallies outdoors, with crowds that are mostly masked. The president told reporters he “didn’t see anyone without” a mask.
But reporters on the ground paint a different picture, with attendees openly disregarding health advice. Thousands of attendees gathered without social distancing and without wearing masks.
The campaign has given out Trump-labeled masks to participants selected to sit behind the president, who was announced last month to have contracted the virus. Doctors have since insisted the president has tested negative and is clear to campaign.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted a rare acknowledgement that cases are on the rise across the US. But he also expressed an oft-debunked theory that coronavirus surges can be directly attributed to increases in testing.
“The United States shows more cases than other countries,” Trump tweeted. “No country in the world tests at this level. The more you test, the more cases you will be reporting. Very simple!”
Mixed messages have come from administration and campaign staff. Former New Jersey governor and campaign surrogate Chris Christie, for example, has pleaded with Americans to wear masks, after spending eight days in hospital himself. But on Sunday Republican national committee chair Ronna McDaniel appeared to downplay the surge.
“I think it is incredibly contagious,” she told ABC’s This Week. “I think people are getting sick and they don’t know where. The president taking that swift action early on is putting our country in a better place to fight this terrible virus.”
Negotiations over economic relief continue to stall. Democrats have set a 48-hour deadline for talks to produce legislation, while Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced the Senate would vote on a GOP bill before the election.
Also on ABC, House speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Republicans for gutting funding for testing and tracing in their proposed legislation, and noted that “communities of color have more deaths than the white population”.
“A Hispanic child has eight times more chance of going to the hospital with Covid than a white child,” she said. “A Black child, five times more chance of going to the hospital on that. That’s because we have not addressed the problem.”
Asked to confirm reports that she hadn’t spoken directly to Trump in more than a year, Pelosi dodged the question. She also refused to commit to having a conversation with the president directly after reaching an agreement on a Covid relief bill.