“Is it the governor’s reopening? Is it Memorial Day? Is it the George Floyd demonstrations? Is it going to the beach?” said Eric Boerwinkle, dean of the UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston. “We don’t really know, but it is probably all of those things that are contributing.”
The United States recorded 36,975 new cases on Wednesday, a new high point in daily cases as the country confronted a new stage of the crisis two months after the previous high in late April. The resurgence is most immediately threatening states that reopened relatively early in the South and the West. Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas all reported their highest single-day totals this week, as did Montana and Utah, and cases were rising in 29 states on Thursday.
Adriana Carter, 21, is among the newly infected.
For many weeks this spring, she said, she took steps to limit her exposure, eating many of her meals at her apartment in San Marcos, Texas, and wearing a mask when going in and out of stores. At the one Black Lives Matter protest she attended, most people were in masks.
But after a particularly long week of juggling online summer classes and her job at an eye clinic, Ms. Carter took a risk one Saturday night in early June and met a friend at the Square, a popular bar district downtown. Though they were careful to avoid the most crowded spots, they chose not to wear masks as they sipped drinks inside and endured the hot Texas weather.
Days later, her friend woke up feeling ill. Both tested positive for the virus.
“We were told we could go out to bars,” she said, adding that she had been careful to quarantine since she learned that she had been exposed. “It’s very unusual for anyone in their 20s to stay at home all the time — not giving any excuses or anything, but I just think we are all just trying to do the best we can.”
The new cases among young people may appear to be a departure from the early days of the pandemic when infections in nursing homes were spiraling out of control, and the virus appeared at higher rates among older people in New York City.
Experts cautioned that the seemingly new prevalence among young people may be, in part, a reflection of more widely available testing. But the growing numbers of people hospitalized in states like North Carolina and Texas also suggest increased transmission of the virus.