Florida recorded a record number of new Covid-19 infections on Saturday, when a nationwide wave of cases forced the cancellation of many Independence Day celebrations – with the exception of two fireworks hosted by Donald Trump.
Another 11,458 people in Florida tested positive over the past 24 hours, the state health department reported Saturday morning. This was a record for the state that has seen an increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
It was the second highest increase in a day in any state other than New York, which reported a daily increase of 1
California reported 6,510 new cases on Saturday, in line with recent days, while Arizona reported a slight improvement with a further 2695 infections.
The coronavirus outbreak has worsened over America's "Sun Belt" – especially in Florida, California, Texas, Arizona and Georgia – in recent weeks. The wave has forced many states to reverse their efforts to reopen their economies.
The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases, followed by Brazil and Russia, according to Johns Hopkins University data showing the number of cases globally now tops 11m. The United Kingdom leads Europe, with more than 286,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins. Pubs, restaurants and hairdressers reopened in England on Saturday.
The United States reported its highest one-day sum for new Covid-19 cases on Friday, a day before the July 4 holiday, marking the 1776 signing of the 1776 Declaration of Independence.
But the pandemic did not stop Trump from marking the occasion with a celebration at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday night. Most people at the event did not appear to wear face masks, and there was no social distancing, despite the warnings from public health officials.
Trump stood in front of the huge sculpture of US presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, holding a divisive political speech condemning a "merciless campaign to obliterate our history" of what he described as " leftist fascism ".
"The angry mob is trying to tear down statues of our founders, mess up our holiest memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities," the president added. The speech emphasized his campaign of law and order in the wake of protests following the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a white Minneapolis cop.
The president returned to the White House early hours Saturday morning, in front of a July 4 celebration in Washington that night.
Trump and his wife, Melania, are expected to appear at the White House South Lawn for a "Salute to America" event before a fireworks display at the National Mall.
The president hosted a similar event in 2019, including a military parade that sparked controversy, with Trump's critics accusing him of politicizing a US holiday.
This year's event will be held despite objections from the public health authorities and Muriel Bowser, the Democratic mayor of Washington, DC.
Because the celebration will be held at the federal, rather than city, state, Bowser does not have jurisdiction over the event. But she warned about public health risks at such a large gathering at a time when local regulations encourage people to continue social distancing and avoid gathering in confined spaces with more than 50 people.
The US Department of the Interior said more than 300,000 clothespin coverage will be available and distributed to visitors to the National Mall.
The Trump campaign announced Saturday morning that it would "hire air advertising" in 13 locations across the United States over the holiday weekend, with planes flying "Keep America Great Again" banners over popular beaches.
"President Trump respects the American flag and stands for the great history of our nation," said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the presidential re-election. "This Independence Day, Team Trump will be moving banners across the country to remind Americans that President Trump will always defend the freedom and freedom we all enjoy."
With four months remaining until Election Day, the presidential polls have dropped sharply in recent weeks, with many Americans not approving of his handling of both the coronavirus pandemic and widespread civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd. Most national polls show the president following double-digit Joe Biden, the supposed Democratic nominee.