The coronavirus pandemic’s merciless march through the Sun Belt is killing record numbers of Americans there, overrunning hospitals and exhausting supplies. But even as some leaders fall ill themselves, they have failed to contain the disease’s spread.

On Thursday, Governor Ron DeSantis offered no new restrictions as Florida joined Texas and California in reporting record deaths. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey promised more testing and limited restaurant capacity after the state announced the most cases in six days. In Mississippi, where many lawmakers had resisted wearing masks in the Capitol, 26 of them tested positive, including the leaders of both legislative chambers.

New U.S. virus cases topped 60,000 in a day for the first time Thursday, with the national total above 3.1 million. And in states where the disease rages, a nightmarish paralysis hit institutions filling with the sick and dying. Quinn Snyder, an emergency physician in Mesa, near Phoenix, said patients were flooding in from other parts of Arizona and as far as New Mexico as smaller hospitals near the saturation point.

“We’ve been discussing putting people in fluoroscopy suites, in radiology suites, everything to housing people in tents,” Snyder said. “We’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic as we speak.”

The daunting numbers and reports of shortages make clear that state and federal governments have failed to prepare for the new onslaught four months after it emerged. Vivid videos and reports of suffering in the Northeast didn’t move Sun Belt states, many run by Republicans who support President Donald Trump, to prepare adequately.

Even when states take measures to tamp down the outbreaks, it takes time to see the effects. So the rising case and death counts are likely to continue.

“We’re not in a good situation. That may be a little too gentle. Probably what I really think is not fit to print,” said Jaline Gerardin, an expert in disease modeling and an assistant professor of preventive medicine in epidemiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “I’m very worried.”

Death Record
In Florida, where 120 more deaths were reported Thursday, the daily record went unmentioned at DeSantis’s media briefing in Jacksonville. Instead, he used the news conference to insist the state had to move the economy forward and reopen schools next month, as Trump has demanded.

“At the end of the day, we need our society to function,” DeSantis said. “We need our society to continue to move forward. We can take steps to be able to minimize risk when you’re talking about coronavirus, but we can’t just leave society on the mat.”

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