Florida reports record number of coronavirus deaths
Florida, the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, reported a record 156 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday and nearly 14,000 new infections.
The total number of virus cases in the "Sunshine State" has now surpassed 315,000 and there have been 4,782 deaths, according to Florida Department of Health figures. The reporting of 156 virus deaths in the state in a 24-hour period surpasses the previous high of 132 deaths announced just two days earlier.
Florida is now reporting more COVID-19 cases daily than any other state in the country. California and Texas are next with about 10,000 new cases a day. The number of virus cases in the United States is just short of 3.5 million, according to Johns Hopkins University -- the most of any country in the world -- and there have been 584,990 deaths, also the highest figure in the world.
COVID-19 cases have been surging in the United States, particularly in states that were among the first to reopen and lift restrictions designed to halt the spread of the highly contagious virus. As cases began to rise in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis reimposed a ban last month on allowing bars to sell alcohol for on-site consumption.
But DeSantis has not followed the lead of California and Texas, for example, and imposed new lockdown orders or made the wearing of masks mandatory in indoor spaces. The governor, a Republican, has also insisted that schools reopen statewide in August, setting up a potential battle with local school districts which may be reluctant to do so.
President Donald Trump, who is facing a tough re-election battle in November and is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in the polls, has been pushing to have schools reopen fully in the fall. Trump's Republican Party is to hold its presidential nominating convention in the Florida city of Jacksonville next month.