SAN FRANCISCO (NEXSTAR) – It’s a race of which neither side wants any part. California and Texas — America’s two largest states by population — are steadily moving closer to 1 million coronavirus infections each.
Tracking data shows that a deadly autumn surge that health officials have been warning about is now underway, blamed in part on Americans tired of wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
The average number of new cases per day in the U.S. has soared more than 40% over the past two weeks, from around 49,000 to about 70,000. Deaths per day have climbed from about 700 to almost 800, according to the Associated Press.
As of Tuesday, both the New York Times and NBC News tracking data showed Texas with about 3,000 more cases than California, moving ahead for the first time. NYT has the confirmed figures at 915,000 cases in California and 918,000 in Texas.
California was an early epicenter of the pandemic and had led the nation in overall infections for months, but the state has kept in place many restrictions from the early days of the outbreak and has fared better than most over the last two months as the virus has taken a toll on the Great Plain states.
California is home to about 10 million more Americans than Texas. Both states still trail New York in total deaths after that state was hit particularly hard in the early days of the outbreak.
Texas has actually fared far better than the Dakotas, Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming for per capita infections in recent weeks. Those states are seeing rates much higher than at any earlier point in the pandemic, according to NYT data. By contrast, Texas is seeing only about 70 percent of the daily infections it suffered during the earlier peak in July. But the trend is starting to go in the wrong direction.
Many of the new cases in Texas come from near the Mexico border in El Paso, where a record surge in coronavirus cases is pushing hospitals to the brink.
Health officials are blaming the spike on family gatherings, multiple generations living in the same household and people under 40 going out to shop or conduct business.
In El Paso, authorities have instructed residents to stay home for two weeks and imposed a 10 p.m. curfew, and they are setting up dozens of hospital beds at a convention center.
As of Tuesday, cases are on the rise in every state but Hawaii, and deaths are up in 34 states.
The virus has killed more than 225,000 people in the U.S. and infected over 8.7 million, by far the highest totals in the world, according to figures kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The Associated Press Contributed to this report.