Coronavirus cases rise in U.S. Midwest with summer travel, Birx says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Coronavirus infections appear to be increasing in the US Midwest as Americans travel through the country in summer, while the rise in the south shows signs of easing, the White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator said Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Dr. White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx puts her protective face mask back on after speaking at a press conference about the Coronavirus Disease Pandemic (COVID-19) in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington. USA, May 22, 2020. REUTERS / Leah Millis

The outbreak of the corona virus "moves" from the south to Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, "for vacation and other travel reasons," Deborah Birx told Fox News.

Florida reported a record increase in new COVID-19 deaths Thursday, the third day in a row, the State Department of Health said one day after the nationwide death toll exceeded 150,000, the highest in the world.

Arizona also reported a record increase in deaths. The two states were hotspots with major outbreaks, but according to a Reuters balance sheet, new cases have recently slowed in both states.

Among the dead, according to a statement on his website and Facebook page, was Herman Cain, a former Republican presidential candidate.

Cain was diagnosed with the disease in late June after attending a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma for President Donald Trump. At this event, many participants without face masks crowded together. Cain tweeted a photo of himself at the event without a mask, surrounded by other Trump supporters.

"We are heartbroken and the world is poorer: Herman Cain has gone to be with the Lord," says the statement on his website.

The outbreak in the United States initially concentrated on the northeastern region around New York, where, with more than 32,000 people, the state still has by far the highest number of deaths.

On Thursday, Mark Levine, chairman of the New York City Council's Health Committee, expressed concern about the increasing number of cases in the region and referred to New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

"Now, for the first time since spring, the cases are increasing again in all three cases," Levine wrote in a series of tweets. "NY is now an island within an island with warning signs on all sides."

The rise and spread of novel coronavirus cases has hampered efforts to recover from an economic crisis caused by home orders and business closures that have left millions of Americans unemployed.

On Thursday, Department of Commerce data showed that the US economy contracted at its steepest pace since the Great Depression in the second quarter.

Most of the historic GDP slump occurred in April after companies such as restaurants, bars, theaters, and factories closed in mid-March to slow the spread of the virus.

As the recovery stalls, pressure is on the White House and Congress to agree on a new stimulus package as federal unemployment benefits expire this week.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has blown up the lack of progress on a package and accused Senate Republicans.

"We often talk about paralysis and Washington, a standstill in Washington – that's not a standstill, that's sabotage," he told a daily press conference.

Reports by Lisa Lambert, Susan Heavey and Andrea Shalal in Washington, Maria Caspani in New York; Writing by Sonya Hepinstall; Edited by John Stonestreet, Nick Zieminski and Bill Berkrot

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