As cases of the coronavirus soared across much of the United States — the nation recorded more than 100,000 new cases for the third straight day and more than 1,000 deaths for the fourth straight day — places that held the virus at manageable levels for months are now experiencing major outbreaks.
Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming — states that drew little attention compared with epicenters like New York or Florida — are now repeatedly setting single-day case records. And deaths are rising in more than half the country.
The United States reported more than 132,790 new cases on Friday, a record, according to a New York Times database. At least 16 states also reported single day records for new cases on Friday. Deaths are increasing in 27 states, and three reported record tolls: Kansas, South Dakota and Utah.
In at least 24 states, there have been more cases announced in the past week than in any other seven-day stretch since the pandemic began. More than 54,800 people were hospitalized with the virus on Friday, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
“Hospitals are definitely strained and societal measures remain relatively liberal,” said Dr. David Brett-Major, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Nebraska. “You just don’t get the feeling that folks are committed to enforcing taking it seriously.”
Nebraska reported more than 2,600 new cases on Friday, a single-day record. In the past week, the state has averaged more than 1,400 cases per day, an increase of 68 percent from the average two weeks earlier.
“In the spring, we were all fussed about hitting numbers that are much, much less than we’re seeing now,” Dr. Brett-Major said.
Neighboring Colorado has averaged more than 2,700 new cases per day for the past week, an increase of 138 percent from the average two weeks earlier, according to a New York Times database. The state reported a single-day record of 3,814 cases on Thursday.
More than 1,000 people were hospitalized in Colorado with the virus on Friday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. And late last month, Gov. Jared Polis warned residents that the state risked running out of hospital beds by the end of the year.
“We can’t stay on the curve we’re on, particularly if we juxtapose some relaxation during the holidays,” said Dr. Samet. “The whole state is heading in the wrong direction.”
In New Jersey, an early epicenter of the pandemic, a spike has its governor warning of new restrictions, as the state surpassed 2,000 new cases Friday for the second time in a week.
Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, has contracted the coronavirus, a senior official in the Trump administration said on Friday night, as the United States set a daily record for new cases for the third straight day.
A Trump campaign adviser, Nick Trainer, along with four White House officials also tested positive for the virus, people close to the administration told The New York Times on Friday.
The diagnoses came as the pandemic rampaged across the United States, which has recorded an average of more than 100,000 new cases per day over the past week and hit another record on Friday, with more than 132,700 cases in a single day. The country also recorded more than 1,220 deaths.
Mr. Meadows, who abided by President Trump’s efforts to play down the coronavirus throughout the summer, is only the latest in a string of people in the president’s circle to contract the virus in the past seven weeks. Others include Mr. Trump himself and the first lady, Melania Trump, and several aides to the president and Vice President Mike Pence
Joseph R. Biden Jr. has made criticism of Mr. Trump’s pandemic response a central feature of his campaign. And since Election Day, Mr. Biden has been briefed on the pandemic by economic and health advisers, projecting the image of a man preparing to assume the mantle of the presidency.
Mr. Biden addressed the pandemic in a brief speech on Friday night, vowing to control the virus and noting that the Covid-19 death toll in the United States was approaching 240,000.
“That’s 240,000 empty chairs at kitchen tables and dining room tables all across America,” he said. “We’ll never be able to measure all that pain and the loss, the suffering, that so many families have experienced.”
Wuhan, once synonymous with the devastation that the coronavirus could wreak, has become the subject of glowing paeans across Chinese media, lauded by officials as a symbol of the country’s resilience in the outbreak’s aftermath.
Propaganda agencies have churned out the television tributes to the city, where the outbreak first emerged, while the national Ministry of Culture and Tourism sponsored a new opera about its doctors.
Wuhan is getting such attention as a city of heroes in part because it has truly made a remarkable recovery. The city, with its packed pool parties and crowded amusement parks, is now proof of the country’s broader recovery. Cases there and nationwide now hover near zero.
But the acclamation is also part of a campaign by the Chinese government to position Wuhan — and by extension China — as a global emblem of superior governance. It’s a propaganda push designed to help sand away any lingering public anger over the government’s costly missteps in the early weeks of the pandemic.
One documentary series, produced by the state broadcaster, for instance, does not mention Li Wenliang, the doctor who was punished for warning friends about the virus and then later died of it. Internet users have condemned the omission.
And some residents said they still see the scars of the outbreak all around them, alongside the signs of recovery.
“I think many Wuhan people are still living in a kind of pain,” Sophia Huang, a lawyer, said.
She would gladly watch an objective documentary about the outbreak that took stock of both the government’s victories and its mistakes, she said. “But obviously that is not possible right now.”
The city of Simi Valley, near Los Angeles, this week announced that police would remove customers from the premises of businesses if they refused to wear masks inside.
The policy was triggered by episodes in which customers became unruly, said Samantha Argabrite, Simi Valley’s deputy city manager.
The police will not cite those individuals or pursue charges, she said, adding that in the two days since the city made the announcement, no business owner had called the police for assistance.
“We want to ensure our business community is aware that if it escalates to the point where the business owners don’t feel safe, they can reach out to the police department,” she said.
But Cmdr. Steve Shorts, a spokesman for the Simi Valley Police Department, said that mask ordinances were a public health order and that his officers were not eager to get involved.
“We are not an agent of the health department,” he said. “There’s nothing enforceable in the penal code, and law enforcement as a whole has not been responsible. We don’t want to get involved at all in the mask ordinance.”
If called to a business about a unruly customer, he said, “we will go over and ask them if they mind complying with the order. If they refuse again, it’s back in the business owner’s lap what they want to do,” including making a citizen’s arrest or pursuing charges for trespassing.
Ms. Argabrite said city officials “want the community to know the police are available as a resource.”
“We don’t want to put them in a position where they are the mask police,” she said.
Though mask mandates are issued on a county or state level, enforcement has largely been left to local governments to manage. Police departments have endeavored to steer clear.
Infectious-disease experts warned about the dangers of cramming thousands of revelers into the Black Hills of South Dakota at the height of a pandemic. But it was the 80th anniversary of the annual Sturgis rally, and bikers were coming no matter what.
South Dakota’s Republican governor, a vocal opponent of lockdowns, gave her blessing; local leaders set aside their misgivings; and 460,000 people from every state in the nation rolled into Sturgis in August. And then they went home, scattering across the country, some with T-shirts declaring, “Screw Covid I Went to Sturgis.”
In the aftermath, hundreds of people have gotten sick, and Sturgis has become a rumbling symbol of America’s bitter divisions over the pandemic, even now, as cases surge and the nation’s death toll nears 235,000.
Family members who stayed away are angry at relatives who attended and brought the virus home. Sturgis City Council members who approved the rally have been bombarded with death threats. And health experts and politicians are still arguing over how many cases it may have led to.
In all, infections tied to the rally reached more than 20 states and involved at least 300 people, according to state health officials.
And today, South Dakota itself has one of the highest infection rates in the country, averaging about 1,100 cases a day. For much of August and September, it was fewer than 100.
Health officials say a lack of contact tracing and the sheer scale of the event have made it impossible to know how many people were infected directly or indirectly because of Sturgis.
“We don’t know if we’ll ever know the full extent,” Dr. Benjamin C. Aaker, president of the South Dakota State Medical Association, said.