(Reuters) – Anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic is rising among Americans along with an alarming acceleration of new COVID-19 cases, with concern about the health crisis reaching the highest level in more than a month, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Wednesday.
As states in the south and west report daily records in the number of new infections, several governors – many of them Republicans who took heat from health experts for opening up without meeting government safety benchmarks – have moved to reverse or pause their orders, reclosing bars, gyms and water parks.
On Wednesday, Indiana’s Republican Governor Eric Holcomb halted his state’s phased reopening until at least mid-July.
“We just have to accept the fact … that again this virus is on the prowl and it is moving, and it’s moving even within our borders,” he said.
California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom rolled back efforts to reopen the largest U.S. state’s economy on Wednesday, banning indoor restaurant dining, closing bars and stepping up enforcement of public health rules.
With the U.S. death toll at nearly 128,000 – about a quarter of the entire global tally – the Reuters/Ipsos June 29-30 poll found that 81% of American adults said they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the pandemic, the most since a similar poll conducted May 11-12.
Concerns appeared to be rising the most among Republicans, the poll showed.
The epicenter of the country’s COVID-19 epidemic has moved from the northeast to states like Arizona, which reported single-day records for new cases and deaths on Wednesday.
Georgia, Tennessee and Alaska reported record high new cases on Wednesday, while they have been spiking to record levels for days in Texas, Florida and California.
Texas again topped its previous record on Wednesday with 8,076 new cases, while South Carolina reported 24 more coronavirus deaths, its single-day high.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose city had for months been at the center of the U.S. outbreak, said on Wednesday he was not going ahead with a plan to allow indoor restaurant dining from Monday.
“We see a lot of problems and we particularly see problems revolving around people going back to bars and restaurants indoors, and indoors is the problem more and more,” he told a daily briefing.
The United States recorded its biggest one-day increase of nearly 48,000 new infections on Tuesday, more than 8,000 each in California and Texas, a Reuters tally showed.
REPUBLICAN CONCERNS GROW
Republicans have generally been less enthusiastic about imposing and maintaining restrictions to stop the spread of the virus, turning public safety issues like face covering into a partisan issue.
In April, Republican President Donald Trump appeared to encourage protesters frustrated by stay-at-home orders by calling on them to “LIBERATE” Democratic-led states.
Trump, who has avoided wearing a face covering, told Fox Business Network on Wednesday he would wear a mask if he were in close quarters with other people, but he did not think mask-wearing needed to be made mandatory nationwide.
In the Reuters/Ipsos poll, about seven in 10 Republicans said they were personally concerned about the virus’ spread, up from six in 10 Republicans in polls conducted over the past few weeks. About nine in 10 Democrats said they are similarly worried, a level of concern that has not changed.
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee who will face Trump in the Nov. 3 presidential election, has attacked Trump’s handling of the crisis and on Tuesday released an updated plan to tackle the pandemic.
Trump officials have blamed the surge in cases on increased testing, but there has also been a rise in the percentage of people testing positive and in hospitalizations – metrics not tied to more tests.
Arizona, Louisiana and Texas have seen their fatality rate rise for two weeks or more. Deaths in Arizona rose 63% in the week ended June 28.
The pandemic fight has largely been left to local officials under enormous pressure to reopen economies, with millions out of work due to the efforts to bring the virus under control.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that nations that fail to mount a coordinated battle against the coronavirus, “face a long, hard road ahead.”
(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien, Sharon Bernstein, Christine Chan, and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago, Emma Farge and John Revill in Geneva; Writing by Sonya Hepinstall; Editing by Bill Berkrot)