(NEXSTAR) – The United States notched a grim new record for daily coronavirus cases, surpassing 170,000 on Friday alone, according to The COVID Tracking Project.
With cases soaring in every state across the country, the U.S. single-day statistics as of Friday at 7:57 p.m. EST included 170,333 cases, 1,201 deaths and 1,683,680 tests.
The scourge is blamed for 10.6 million confirmed infections and almost a quarter-million deaths in the U.S., with the closely watched University of Washington model projecting nearly 439,000 dead by March 1.
Daily cases totals are soaring across the nation and the 7-day average for daily deaths is now over 1,000, at 1,068.
The governors of Oregon and New Mexico ordered near-lockdowns Friday in the most aggressive response yet to the latest wave of coronavirus infections shattering records across the U.S., even as many of their counterparts in other states show little appetite for reimposing the hard-line restrictions of last spring.
On Thursday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a stay-at-home advisory for the city, urging people to avoid non-essential and out-of-state travel, as well as gatherings at home with anyone outside of the household, “even with trusted family or friends.”
Still, there is little will among many governors and other elected officials for going back to the kind of lockdowns and large-scale business closings seen last spring. Some governors also continue to resist issuing statewide mask rules.
Among the reasons given: public fatigue, fear of doing more damage to already-crippled businesses, lack of support from Washington, and the way efforts to tame the virus have become fiercely politicized.
“I think that governors and mayors are, again, in a really tough spot. The American population is emotionally and economically exhausted,” Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
Governors in many states, such as New York, Maryland, Virginia and Minnesota, have instead taken largely incremental measures over the past few days, such as restricting the size of gatherings, making businesses close early, restricting capacity or cutting off alcohol sales earlier in the evening.
Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has repeatedly argued that containing the virus is largely up to individuals.
“Some people are going to ask, ‘Why not limit retail, or casino resorts, or restaurants right now?’ That’s a fair question,” he said. “That is the tightrope of trying to balance controlling the COVID-19 spread, protecting our hospitals from surges, and at the same time, not destroying and shutting down our economy.”
In Texas, which this week became the first state to surpass 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has emphasized new treatments and vaccines that are expected to become available soon.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has taken an even harder line against new restrictions, suing after El Paso closed nonessential businesses because of a surge so severe that mobile morgues are being brought in. An appeals court Thursday temporarily lifted the shutdown.
Officials have gotten pushback from some constituents, especially business owners who fear for their livelihoods.
In Ohio, Bahram Akradi, founder, chairman and CEO of Life Time health clubs, objected when the governor added gyms to a list of businesses that could be shuttered if cases continue to rise.
“Another shutdown would just be completely devastating and simply unjust,” Akradi said. He added: “The damage of not allowing people to have healthy activity is much more than the gain.”
In Montana, where cases are up more than 16% in the past week, Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, said he is wary of imposing tougher statewide restrictions without additional federal aid to unemployed individuals and small businesses.
“I never wanted to punish the businesses that are doing right in this pandemic to keep their employees and customers safe. Shutting down those businesses would do just that,” he said.
The political perils of statewide mandates have been on display in Wisconsin. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued a “safer at home” order in March that was challenged by Republican lawmakers and struck down by the conservative-controlled state Supreme Court in May.
The result has been a hodgepodge of local limits across the state, with some of the most strict ones in places like Milwaukee, which is moving forward with imposing steep fines of between $500 and $5,000 for violations of local health orders.
Other governors have likewise relied on local and county officials to tackle the crisis, creating a patchwork quilt of restrictions around the country. But that strategy has its limits against a virus.
In Tennessee, Nashville Mayor John Cooper said he doesn’t plan on reinstating restrictions on the city’s honky tonks and other businesses. He said shutting down just one county would probably be ineffective against the virus because the surrounding areas wouldn’t be following the same guidelines.
“We are also subject to what goes on in our state and we can’t keep just our county safe,” Cooper said.
Some economists say the crisis has been falsely portrayed as a choice between the economy and public health. Instead, they argue that the economy cannot recover until the virus is brought under control and people are confident enough to go shopping, eat at restaurants and do other things again.
Experts have argued, too, that strict but relatively short lockdowns could ultimately result in less economic pain than the half-measures employed now, which have only succeeded in dragging out the crisis.
Dr. Michael Fine, former director of Rhode Island’s Health Department, said the outbreak requires more aggressive strategies. Closing bars earlier in the evening, he said, “might have worked in July, but there’s not a chance they’ll work now. It’s like taking an eyedropper to a forest fire.”
“Short of very profound lockdowns, I don’t think we have a chance of slowing the spread,” Fine said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.