By Ted Mann and David Hall 

Nine states reported a record tally of new coronavirus cases, as the total number of infections detected in the U.S. since the pandemic began ticked above 8 million.

The U.S. recorded more than 63,000 infections for Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the first time in more than two months that the daily tally has crossed 60,000.

Midwestern states were particularly hard hit, with Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana all reporting their highest single-day totals since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins. States in other parts of the country, including North Carolina and Colorado, also reported record daily caseloads.

Data from the Covid Tracking Project showed that 6.28 percent of the more than 1 million tests reported Thursday were positive, the highest rate since Sept. 22.

The country averaged more than 53,000 new cases of the coronavirus over the past week, compared to 50,000 over the past 14 days. A rising trend indicates that infections are spreading more rapidly through the population.

All told, 373,836 cases were reported in the U.S. this week through Thursday, up from 328,082 cases a week earlier.

Epidemiologists and public-health researchers said a number of factors are likely playing a role in the rising case numbers, including the lifting of restrictions and compliance fatigue.

As cases rise, deaths have held fairly steady. Over the last two weeks, the country has averaged just over 700 deaths a day from Covid-19 -- though for the past three days, the daily death toll has jumped above 800. Deaths often lag new cases, given the duration of the disease.

To date, more than 218,000 Americans have died. While the U.S. has more fatalities than any other country in the world, it doesn't have the highest percentage of cases that are fatal. That metric has fallen to 2.7%, as testing has expanded and detected more mild and asymptomatic cases.

The U.S. ranks 11th in the world in deaths per capita, with 66.54 fatalities per 100,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins. That figure was closer to 39 in early July.

Hospitalizations: Hospitalizations have been rising in every region across the U.S., data from the Covid Tracking Project show. Nationwide, U.S. hospitalizations were at the highest level since Aug. 27 as of Thursday, reaching 37,308, according to the group. Though elevated compared with recent weeks, the level is lower than July's peaks of more than 59,000.

Vaccines and Treatments: Pfizer Inc. said Friday that results from a study of its covid vaccine could be available by the end of October, raising the possibility that the first doses could be distributed to patients before the end of the year. If early results show the vaccine is safe, Pfizer could seek regulatory approval to begin administering shots of the drug by late November, the company said.

The National Institutes of Health is launching a trial to determine whether three drugs for moderating the immune system -- including two that are already on the market -- could be effective in treating Covid-19. The study is projected to last for eight months.

New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy replaced two officials of the state's veterans affairs department on Friday, two weeks after a Wall Street Journal investigation found deadly lapses at a veterans home run by the agency during a Covid-19 outbreak.

Kentucky: Gov. Andy Beshear said he and his family had tested negative a second time for Covid-19, but would remain in quarantine until cleared by the state's health department. On Sunday, Mr. Beshear said he was isolating with his family after a member of his security detail tested positive for the coronavirus.

World

Kentucky is one of a number of states wrestling with an uptick of new infections. Since Oct.1, it has reported an average of more than 1000 cases a day. Throughout September, that figure was below 700.

North Carolina: The state reported more than 2,500 new cases, a single-day record. Hospitalizations have topped 1,000 for 10 consecutive days, levels last seen in late August. Gov. Roy Cooper said the state's numbers aren't where they need to be. "We've all made big sacrifices this year, but we can't let our guard down now," he wrote on Twitter.

Economy: Pressure is growing on vulnerable incumbents, especially Republicans, as talks over a new coronavirus relief package drag on without an agreement. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican facing a strong challenge from Democrat Jaime Harrison, said this week he would support an aid package larger than the $1.88 trillion proposal offered by the White House. That puts Mr. Graham well out of step with other members of the Republican Senate majority, who have suggested that even the White House offer, much less the $2.2 trillion package passed by the Democratic-led House of Representatives, was too costly.

New data underscore the important role that previous relief measures played in easing household burdens. A study released Friday found that aid payments doubled the savings of unemployed people during the spring and summer, but that the cushion that aid provided had been largely wiped away by the end of August.

Europe: The second wave of Covid-19 cases in Europe is overwhelming countries that escaped the first bout, straining health care systems in the Central and Eastern parts of the continent.

Over the past two weeks, Czech Republic has been one of Europe's hardest-hit countries on a per-capita basis, with nearly 10,000 people testing positive Thursday in a country of 11 million.

France recorded a record high number of new cases Thursday, as infections rose by 30,621. The sharp increase comes shortly before a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew takes effect in Paris and several other cities to curb the virus's spread. Hospitalizations and fatalities also rose.

In Spain, more than 13,000 new cases were recorded as the region of Catalonia prepared to follow Madrid in adopting fresh restrictions, which will involve closing bars and restaurants for 15 days.

Preventive measures also expanded in the U.K., where Britain's government added densely populated Lancashire to its list of areas under the highest level of restriction. The order bans people from visiting other households and forces the closure of pubs, among other measures.

Asia: India reported 63,371 new cases, taking the total to more than 7.37 million, according to the health ministry. The country ranks second only to the U.S. in the number of confirmed cases world-wide. India's death toll rose by 895 to 112,161.

Health authorities in China on Friday reported zero locally transmitted cases for the previous day. A senior provincial health official said the outbreak in Qingdao was linked to a CT scanning room that had been used by two port workers who had earlier tested positive, but were deemed to be asymptomatic. The official said the room wasn't disinfected properly.

For the first time since Sept. 29, South Korea reported fewer than 50 new infections. On Monday, the country relaxed its social-distancing measures to the lowest of three tiers, allowing karaoke bars and buffet restaurants to reopen.

But cases ticked up in Japan, which recorded 707 infections, the largest daily increase since Sept. 10. Japan's daily infection levels have been locked in the triple digits for nearly two months as the country has been gradually reactivating the economy. "The equilibrium could be destabilized at any moment," said Shigeru Omi, the head of the government subcommittee on Covid-19 measures.

Write to Ted Mann at ted.mann@wsj.com and David Hall at david.hall@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 16, 2020 18:38 ET (22:38 GMT)

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