(Reuters) – The governor of Oklahoma said Wednesday that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and that he was one of the most elected US politicians who tested positive for the disease as coronavirus infections continue at a national level increase.
Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican who attended President Donald Trump's rally in Tulsa almost three weeks ago, had a backlash after posting a photo of himself and two of his children in a crowded restaurant on Twitter, although the state owned one Health authorities urged social distancing.
"I was tested on COVID-19 yesterday and the results were positive," the 47-year-old Stitt said in a video conference with reporters. "I'm really fine, I mean, you could say I'm asymptomatic or just a little bit painful."
Stitt is one of several elected leaders who have been infected since the novel coronavirus arrived in the US this year. Others are U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, and about half a dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives of both parties.
The number of US cases in the south and west has increased since state and local officials began to ease economic and social restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. There are currently an average of around 60,000 new cases per day across the country.
Oklahoma reported a record rise for the second consecutive Wednesday. Nationwide, the total number of cases is almost 3.5 million, by far the highest number of all countries in the world.
To date, more than 136,000 Americans have died of the highly contagious respiratory disease.
Coronavirus cases in the surrounding county have increased to over 5,200 since Trump's campaign event on June 20 in a hall in Tulsa, in which several thousand people took part against the advice of public health officials – an increase of 219% in recent years four weeks a Reuters analysis. Eight Trump campaign employees were tested positive at the time of this event.
Stitt said he worked with contact tracers when his symptoms developed and they believed he wasn't contagious before Saturday.
An influential mortality model developed by the University of Washington's Institute of Health Metrics and Assessment (IHME) predicted late Tuesday that the number of deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 would exceed 224,000 by November 1, an increase of 16,000 compared to a previous forecast.
But it also says that if almost all Americans wore masks in public, the number of lives lost could be reduced by 40,000.
Trump, whose popularity in opinion polls is declining ahead of the November elections, has been reluctant to accept wearing masks, and most Republican governors and local officials have followed suit.
Stitt, a first-time governor, encourages Oklahomans to wear face masks, but he rarely wears one himself in public and has not issued a national mask mandate.
Republican governor Kay Ivey returned to infection for the second year in a row on Wednesday, ordering all residents to wear masks from Thursday.
"I always prefer personal responsibility over a government mandate," Ivey said at a briefing. "And yet I know with all my heart that the numbers and dates of the past few weeks have definitely been heading in the wrong direction."
The neighboring state of Florida, which has become an epicenter of the recent increase in cases, reported another 10,000 new infections on Wednesday, for a total of over 300,000. There were also 112 new deaths reported, compared to 133 on Tuesday.
The resurgence of infections across much of the country has forced difficult decisions about how and when closed schools should be reopened for the coming school year.
The governor of Kansas, Laura Kelly, said on Wednesday that she would issue an executive order to postpone the opening of schools in her state until after the September 7 holiday.
The Parade of the Rose Tournament 2021, an annual spectacle of flowered floats that has taken place in Pasadena, California since New Year's Day in 1891, was canceled due to the pandemic, which was canceled for the first time in 76 years, the organizers said on Wednesday.
The Mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, scolded young people on Wednesday for not taking the virus seriously enough.
"Some of you joked that I'm like the mother who turns the car over if you behave. No, friends, it's actually worse. I won't just turn the car over. I'll turn it off. I'll kick you out and bring you home, ”Lightfoot said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Additional reporting by Lisa Shumaker, Peter Szekely and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Sonya Hepinstall; Editing of Rosalba O & # 39; Brien
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