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Coronavirus slammed the US Northeast and then the South and West. Now it's the heartland's turn
AP

Coronavirus slammed the US Northeast and then the South and West. Now it's the heartland's turn

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The sharp increase in coronavirus infections that slammed the US Northeast in March and April followed by the South and West in June and July is now making its way inland.

California, Florida, Texas and Arizona have seen sharp increases in coronavirus cases over the past two months and are starting to see their new daily case numbers level off at high daily infection rates.

Hospitals are being pushed to their limits, and deaths, which generally trail weeks behind infections, have started to increase.

More than 150,000 people have died in the US due to coronavirus overall, and that number is currently going up by more than 1,000 a day, led by surges in Texas, California and Florida.

That same process is now moving to the middle of the country as states including Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee are seeing an increase in the percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive.

"What inevitably is going to happen is that the states that are not yet in trouble, will likely get into trouble," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday in an interview on MSNBC.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, referred to this process as the virus "moving up." She called on state and local officials to issue mask mandates during an interview on "Fox & Friends" on Thursday.

"We believe if the governors and mayors of every locality right now would mandate masks for their communities and every American would wear a mask, and socially distance, and not congregate in large settings where you can't socially distance or wear a mask, that we can really get control of this virus and drive down cases, as Arizona has done," Birx said.

The White House coronavirus task force has warned Midwestern governors that the time to get ahead of the curve is now before the numbers start to skyrocket in their states, Fauci said.

"Before you know it, two to three weeks down the pike, you're in trouble," he said.

The dismal economic numbers released Thursday underscore the importance of stopping the virus.

The US economy contracted at a 32.9% annual rate from April through June, its worst drop on record, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said Thursday.

Deaths increasing in South and West

States across the West and South have set records for daily cases and deaths this month as the virus has surged.

California set a grim record of 197 deaths in a single day, the California Department of Public Health reported Wednesday. The last record for the state was set just the week before at 159.

Los Angeles County also saw its highest Covid-19 death toll to date with 91 deaths, bringing the total in the county to 4,516. But the county's Health Director Barbara Ferrer warned that some of Wednesday's fatalities could be attributed to a reporting backlog.

Also setting a record for coronavirus deaths in one day, Florida reported 216 deaths Wednesday. The state has been at the forefront of the resurgence in coronavirus cases.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez said to expect a high number of deaths for some time to come.

"It was a steep rise to the top and I think it's going to be a gradual decline," he said.

In terms of confirmed coronavirus cases, California, Florida and Texas have now all surpassed New York, once the epicenter of the pandemic. However, the numbers are somewhat misleading given that New York saw its severe outbreak when testing was far less available.

Midwest working to get ahead of the curve

Officials in the Midwest should begin preparing for a similar spike, Fauci said.

"What we're seeing now is what actually took place a couple of weeks ago and what we're going to see a couple of weeks from now, is what we're doing now," he said.

West Virginia is watching coronavirus migrate from the South daily, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said. The state has lost five more people to the virus since Monday, bringing the total to more than 1,100 people.

"It's just not good. That's just all there is to it," Justice said.

As cases rise in Indiana, officials there have decided to conduct a second round of testing on nursing home staff in August to prevent rising numbers from reaching the facilities, Dr. Daniel Rusyniak, chief medical officer of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, said Wednesday. Long term care facilities and nursing homes have been the sites of deadly outbreaks in many states.

In Illinois, the High School Association Board of Directors on Wednesday proposed "unprecedented scheduling changes" for sports in the new school year. The sports seasons will be truncated, and fall sports including football, boys' soccer, and girls' volleyball will move to the spring, according to a news release, which said the final plan needs approval from the Illinois Department of Health.

On Wednesday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people and closing bars across the state for indoor service as of July 31, according to a release from the governor's office.

"After seeing a resurgence in cases connected to social gatherings across the state, we must further limit gatherings for the health of our community and economy," the release said.

Restart needed to get back on track, experts say

Health experts are urging federal, state and local leaders to come up with new policy actions to get control of the pandemic.

Scholars at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security said in a report that the US needs to restart its response to the virus.

"Unlike many countries in the world, the United States is not currently on course to get control of this epidemic," the report says. "It is time to reset."

The report includes 10 recommendations that include universal mask mandates, federal leadership to improve testing and, in places where rates of transmission are worsening, stay-at-home orders.

Though some have called for another shut down, Fauci said the better option might be to scale back reopenings and move forward more cautiously from there.

"If you're going to quickly call a pause, a timeout and think maybe you want to backtrack a little, not necessarily all the way back to shutdown, but enough to regain your footing, so that you then proceed to open in a much more cautious fashion," he said.

CNN's Gisela Crespo, Shelby Lin Erdman, Rebekah Riess, Haley Brink, Naomi Thomas, Cheri Mossburg and Raja Razek contributed to this report.

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