The United States saw the number of new coronavirus cases exceed 40,000 in a single day, Vice President Mike Pence said Friday, but emphasized that more than half of the country's 50 states are reopening safely without seeing substantial outbreaks.
While admitting that 16 states, such as Texas and Florida, warrant attention due to a rise in cases, Pence appeared optimistic about the situation as he attributed the growing number to expanded testing and the spread seen among younger people under the age of 35, many of whom he says have not developed symptoms.
The briefing was the first by the White House coronavirus task force in about two months amid growing concerns over the resurgence of the highly contagious virus.
Before the latest daily case count surpassed 40,000, data from Johns Hopkins University showed that 39,972 new cases were confirmed Thursday, exceeding the previous high of 36,291 in April. The virus has so far infected more than 2.4 million people and killed over 120,000 in the United States, with both figures higher than any other country in the world.
A widespread move to roll back reopening plans would be a blow to President Donald Trump, who is desperate to bring the U.S. economy back on track ahead of the November election.
Though many states have sought to reopen quickly, some are beginning to backpedal from plans to return to normalcy.
The government of Texas, one of the first states in the country to reopen its economy, on Friday ordered bars to close except for delivery and take-out services, while limiting restaurants to 50 percent capacity.
Texas, along with states such as California and Florida, has recently been reporting thousands of new cases each day.
In a controversial move last Saturday, Trump held his signature campaign rally for the first time since the pandemic intensified in the United States in March, seeking to re-energize his base as he reels from sagging approval ratings.
The rally in the southern state of Oklahoma did not draw crowds as large as the campaign had initially boasted, but nonetheless brought about 6,200 people together in an indoor venue, according to local authorities, with few attendees seen wearing masks and many sitting close to each other.
Pence defended the president's decision on Friday, saying that proper steps such as temperature screening had been taken, and that freedom of speech as well as the right to peaceably assemble should be assured especially ahead of the election.
In the United States, the first case of COVID-19, the disease triggered by the virus, was reported in January. The outbreak then started to hit the economy severely in the final weeks of March through a widespread shuttering of businesses and stay-at-home orders.
The gradual reopening process began in late April, but the country is struggling to strike a balance between protecting people's health and their livelihoods.