WASHINGTON • One person in the United States died about every minute from Covid-19 on Wednesday, as the national death toll surpassed 150,000, the highest in the world.
The US recorded 1,461 new deaths that day, the highest one-day increase since 1,484 on May 27, according to a Reuters tally.
The country's coronavirus deaths are rising at the fastest rate in two months and have increased by 10,000 in the past 11 days.
Nationally, the death toll has risen for three weeks in a row while the number of new infections week over week recently fell for the first time since last month.
But the country is still battling its first wave of the coronavirus, having never taken control of it.
The pace of infection has accelerated since the death toll passed 100,000 on May 27.
Southern and western states have been particularly hard hit.
A spike in cases in Florida, Arizona, California and Texas this month has overwhelmed hospitals.
The rise in cases has forced states to make a U-turn on reopening economies that were restricted by lockdowns in March and April to slow the spread of the virus.
Texas leads the nation with nearly 4,300 deaths so far this month, followed by Florida with 2,900 and California, the most populous state, with 2,700.
The Texas figure includes a backlog of hundreds of deaths after the state changed the way it counted Covid-19 fatalities.
On Wednesday, California, Florida and Texas reported record increases in Covid-19 deaths for a second day in a row, based on the Reuters tally.
California had 185 fatalities and Florida reported 217 new deaths.
Texas had at least 311 deaths.
Only two other states, New York and New Jersey, have ever reported more than 300 deaths in a single day.
While the epicentre has moved to the south and the west, the area around New York still has by far the highest toll for one state at more than 32,000 deaths.
Coronavirus deaths are rising in 27 states, up from 23 states a week ago, according to a Reuters analysis of deaths the past two weeks, compared with the prior two weeks.
The rising numbers have crushed early hopes that the US was past the worst of an economic crisis that has decimated businesses and put millions of Americans out of work.
The US is the worst hit in the world, with more than 4.5 million infections and over 153,000 deaths yesterday, according to data gathering firm Worldometer.
Health experts have been saying for months that the US outbreak could be brought under control if guidelines to maintain social distancing and wear masks in public were followed everywhere.
Such measures became a hot partisan issue after President Donald Trump, who initially played down the seriousness of the health crisis after the first US case in January, refused to wear a mask.
He has since come around to support the wearing of masks but still has not imposed a national mandate requiring them.
Florida commercial pilot Rob Koreman, 50, of Fort Lauderdale, said he had been stunned by the climbing numbers in his state.
"None of this should have happened. We needed state coordination, if not flat-out a federal mandate."
Republican lawmaker Louie Gohmert from Texas, who had refused to wear a mask, tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, raising concerns that other members of Congress may also have been exposed.
With the scheduled reopening of schools just days away in some states, the Trump administration is pushing for students to return to classrooms, while some teachers and local officials have called for learning to remain online.
The 10 countries with the most number of fatalities
UNITED STATES: 153,871
Data as of 9pm yesterday
The University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), whose forecasts are closely watched by policymakers including the White House, first predicted in March that the pandemic could kill more than 81,000 by July after easing in June.
In its latest statement on July 14, the IHME said its model now projects the US death toll at more than 224,000 by Nov 1.
It also said that number was not set in stone.
"Use of masks is up, but not as high as it should be. If 95 per cent of Americans wore masks each time they left their homes, infection rates would drop, hospitalisations would drop and forecast deaths would drop," it said.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE