US hits 2 million coronavirus cases amid surges in some states

US hits 2 million coronavirus cases amid surges in some states
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The United States surpassed 2 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, as rising hospitalizations in states such as Texas and Arizona prompt fears about reopening the country. 

As of Thursday morning, the U.S. had reported nearly 113,000 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. 

The new data arrives as health experts around the globe warn that the coronavirus outbreak is not over and that people must continue to practice social-distancing guidelines and wear face coverings in public. 

In March, a wave of state leaders instituted stay-at-home orders that led to a mass closure of schools and non-essential businesses in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Many states have gradually lifted restrictions on businesses and mass gatherings in the intervening months, as the rate of infection slows in parts of the U.S. 

But COVID-19 hospitalizations have spiked in states such as Texas, Arizona, Arkansas and North Carolina. Health authorities in Texas on Wednesday reported a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations for the third consecutive day, raising concerns about the danger of reopening and allowing human interaction to return to normal. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last week announced that the state would enter the third phase of its reopening, a move allowing all businesses to operate at 50 percent capacity. Some will be allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity. 

Arizona and Florida have also reported high rates of infections. On Saturday, Florida reported its highest daily total of COVID-19 cases since mid-April. Arizona has also reported at least 1,000 confirmed cases of the virus ever day this week, NPR noted.

Protests that swept the nation in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, have also prompted concerns from leading health officials. 

Speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciWhite House looks to make 'we need to live with it' the new tone on coronavirus: report Rand Paul's exchange with Fauci was exactly what America needed Ex-CIA director Panetta: Trump has 'essentially gone AWOL' amid pandemic MORE, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said that he was concerned about the increased chance of the virus spreading due to the large crowds gathering in U.S. cities.

“The issue of physical separation is important. Masks can help, but it’s masks plus physical separation, and when you get congregations like we saw with the demonstrations, like we have said — myself and other health officials — that’s taking a risk,” Fauci said. “Unfortunately, what we’re seeing now is just an example of the kinds of things we were concerned about.”

Evidence showing that the disease spread because of protests won't be available for at least two weeks.