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US posts over 68K new virus cases, setting record for third straight day

The U.S. on Friday reported more than 68,000 new COVID-19 cases, breaking the country's record for the daily number of new cases for the third consecutive day as the growing pandemic tightens its grip on the country.

Friday's total was a significant rise from Thursday's record mark of 59,886, according to a tally from The New York Times, though it also underscores the massive jump in new cases over the past two weeks. Friday's record of 68,100 represents an 84 percent increase over the last 16 days, the Times found.

Several states set records for the number of new cases on Friday, including Georgia, Utah, Montana, North Carolina, Iowa and Ohio.

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Georgia, the first state to begin reopening its economy amid the pandemic, recorded 4,904 cases on Friday, smashing its previous record of 2,886 on July 2.

Atlanta officials have signaled that the city could be shifting back to phase one guidelines, which largely direct people to stay at home. The city's mayor, Keisha Lance BottomsKeisha Lance BottomsAtlanta gets city's first director of LGBTQ affairs Five House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet Biden pledges to work with mayors MORE (D), tested positive for COVID-19 this week, though she says she is asymptomatic. She made wearing a masks while in public a requirement for city residents on Wednesday.

Texas reported 9,923 new cases on Friday after seeing nearly 11,000 cases on Thursday, a record. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has reshuttered bars and mandated that all Texans wear masks in public, but he warned Friday that more restrictions could be coming, predicting that "things will get worse."

"This was a very tough decision for me to make," Abbott said in a TV interview, explaining the mask requirement. "I made clear that I made this tough decision for one reason: It was our last best effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. If we do not slow the spread of COVID-19 ... the next step would have to be a lockdown."

Florida, which has become one of the world's epicenters for the pandemic, nearly broke its record for daily cases that it set on July 4, reporting 11,433 new cases on Friday. Despite the surge in cases, Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans Group of Florida mayors calls on DeSantis to issue mask mandate DeSantis promises to keep Florida open despite recent coronavirus case surge MORE (R) has said that he will not shut down the state again.

"We're open. We know who we need to protect Most of the folks in those younger demographics, although we want them to be mindful of what's going on, are just simply much much less at risk than the folks who are in those older age groups," he said late last month.