By Jake Coyle, Terry Spencer, and David Rising
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. climbed to an all-time high of more than 50,000 per day on Thursday, with the infection curve rising in 40 out of 50 states in a reversal that has largely spared only the Northeast.
In yet another alarming indicator, 36 states are seeing a rise in the percentage of tests that are coming back positive for the virus.
The surge has been blamed in part on Americans not wearing masks or following other social distancing rules as states lifted their lockdowns over the past few weeks.
The U.S. recorded 50,700 new cases, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. That represents a doubling of the daily total over the past month and is higher even than what the country witnessed during the deadliest phase of the crisis in April and May.
All but 10 states are showing an increase in newly confirmed cases over the past 14 days, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer organization that collects testing information. The outbreaks are most severe in Arizona, Texas, and Florida, which together with California have re-closed or otherwise clamped back down on bars, restaurants, and movie theaters.
Nebraska and South Dakota were the only states outside the Northeast with a downward trend in cases.
While some of the increases may be explained in part by expanded testing, other indicators are grim, too, including hospitalizations and positive test rates. Over the past two weeks, the percentage of positive tests in Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee has doubled. In Idaho and Nevada, it has tripled.
The surge in cases comes as Americans head into a Fourth of July holiday weekend that health officials warn could add fuel to the virus by drawing big crowds. Many municipalities have canceled fireworks displays. Beaches up and down California and Florida have been closed.
Florida reported more than 10,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases for the first time Thursday. That is six times higher than the daily count of less than a month ago. The state also reported 67 deaths for the second time in a week. Deaths per day are up about 30 percent from two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the government reported that U.S. unemployment fell to 11.1 percent in June as the economy added a solid 4.8 million jobs. But the data was collected during the second week of June before many states began to backtrack on restarting their economies.
Several Northeastern states have seen new infections slow down significantly, including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, which allowed its Atlantic City casinos to reopen Thursday, though with no smoking, no drinking ,and no eating.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday seemed confident the virus would soon subside, telling Fox Business: "I think that, at some point, that's going to sort of just disappear, I hope."
The U.S. has reported at least 2.7 million cases and more than 128,000 dead, the highest toll in the world. Globally there have been 10.7 million confirmed cases and more than 516,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins' count. The true toll is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of limited testing and mild cases that have been missed.
Other countries are also reporting record numbers of cases.
South Africa recorded more than 8,100 new cases, a one-day record. The country has the most cases in Africa, more than 159,000, as it loosens what had been one of the world's strictest lockdowns.
"We have now entered a new and treacherous phase in the life cycle of this pandemic," South African President Cyril Ramaphosa warned in a broadcast to the nation.
India, the world's second-most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people, surpassed 600,000 infections on Thursday after over 19,000 new cases were reported. India has reported nearly 100,000 new cases in the past four days alone.
Many industries and businesses have reopened across India, though schools, colleges, and movie theaters are still closed.
On the medical front, the World Health Organization said that smoking is linked to a higher risk of severe illness and death from the coronavirus in hospitalized patients, although it was unable to specify exactly how much greater the danger might be.
Associated Press' Cara Anna in Johannesburg contributed to this report. Coyle reported from New York. Rising reported from Berlin.