Neon yellow circles for social distancing are on the ground while people walk through the High Line park wearing face masks in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
July 16 (UPI) -- The United States set a new single-day record for coronavirus cases, registering more than 70,000 new infections on Thursday as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp filed a lawsuit seeking to block Atlanta's mask order.
While their numbers vary, several trackers of the virus all showed that the United States had reported more new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday than during any other 24-hour period during the pandemic, continuing a trend of climbing infections.
According to The New York Times' tally, more than 75,000 cases were reported on Thursday, smashing its previous record of more than 68,000 cases on Friday, while The Washington Post had its figure at 71,406, which was still higher than its previous record of 67,211 from late last week.
Meanwhile, Worldometer.info counted 73,388 cases for Thursday, which trumped its Friday figure of 72,278.
At more than 3.5 million infections and more than 138,000 deaths to the virus, the United States is the worst affected nation by the pandemic.
In Georgia, the lawsuit filed by Kemp in Fulton County Superior Court challenges Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' decision to require face masks be worn in public and to revert the city to "Phase 1" of its re-opening guidelines, closing restaurant dining rooms and calling on residents to only leave their homes for essential activities.
"This lawsuit is on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times," Kemp wrote on Twitter. "These men and women are doing their very best to put food on the table for their families while local elected officials shutter businesses and undermine economic growth."
Wednesday night, Kemp signed an executive order overruling local governments that enacted ordinances requiring face coverings and prohibited similar orders in the future.
Kemp's order asserted the state's right to impose its own less-stringent guidelines, in which residents are merely "strongly urged" to wear masks "as practicable" in public.
The provision, included as part of the state's general COVID-19 guidelines, explicitly voids mask mandates at the local level.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson also announced Thursday a statewide face-covering mandate, explaining it's necessary because the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths indicate "we need to do more."
He added that health officials and legislators have also been urging for more to be done in the state and that students will be required to wear face coverings in most situations when they go back to school in the fall as reasons for the requirement.
"When you think about it, if you're going to ask the children in the school setting to wear face coverings for everyone's health and safety then the adults must help them to be ready and set the right example for them," he said, adding that the fight against the virus is most likely to get harder and not easier and they have to "meet the challenge together."
According to the face-covering requirements, one must be worn over the mouth and nose in all indoor environments where non-household members are present and distancing of at least six feet cannot be assured. In outdoor settings, a face covering must be worn if the wearer will be exposed to people they do not live with unless that six feet of space permitting for proper social distancing is possible.
In Miami, Mayor Francis Suarez said Thursday he is "very, very close" to issuing a new stay-at-home order amid a surge in cases and deaths in Florida.
Florida, the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak, said Thursday it set a new record for COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, with 156 -- topping the previous mark by 24 deaths. Officials also reported 14,000 new cases statewide.
More than 315,000 people in Florida have now been diagnosed with COVID-19.
"There is very little, if any federal and state guidance on how and what metric we need to use to close," Suarez told CNN. "So we're developing all of that on our own. And we're faced with making these tough decisions in the next few days if things don't improve radically."
In Oklahoma, the Tulsa City Council passed a mask requirement by a 7-2 vote Wednesday, less than a month after President Donald Trump held a re-election rally in the city.
Mayor G.T. Bynum was expected to sign the measure Thursday morning, which requires adults in public areas to wear face coverings at all times.
"We will continue to do what we have to do to protect our local healthcare system," Bynum said.
The ordinance came on the same day Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced he tested positive for COVID-19.
In Arizona, Maricopa County has ordered portable body coolers to cope with the number of rising deaths.
Spokesman Fields Moseley said the added deaths have led to a "surge capacity" designation for the county morgue. Officials ordered four coolers to address the lack of space for the dead.
New cases in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, have flattened at around 2,500 new per day during the last week, officials noted.