(Adds New Mexico health order; updates latest national tallies)
A health care professional walks past an ambulance during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 13, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
By Doina Chiacu and Sharon Bernstein
WASHINGTON, Nov 13 (Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden’s top coronavirus adviser said on Friday there were no plans for a wholesale nationwide lockdown to curb the surging COVID-19 pandemic, while three U.S. West Coast states jointly called for a halt in non-essential travel.
The warning against unnecessary transit came as the daily increase in COVID-19 cases in the United States rose to a record of over 177,000 on Friday, the fourth straight day a new all-time high has been set, according to a Reuters tally of figures from U.S. public health agencies.
California, Oregon and Washington urged residents to avoid venturing out of state, citing concerns raised by health experts that the coming holiday travel season would accelerate already alarming spikes in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown took the additional step of ordering social gatherings limited to no more than six people, effective immediately, a restriction she said she was prepared to enforce.
“I am not asking you, I am telling you, to stop your social gatherings … and your house parties and to limit your social interactions to six and under, not more than one household,” Brown said.
Similarly, New Mexico’s acting health secretary, Billy Jiminez, extended through the end of November a three-week-old ban on gatherings of more than five people who do not live in the same household, along with a directive advising state residents to stay “in their homes for all but the most essential activities and services.”
That order also requires face coverings be worn in public and mandates the closure of workplaces not defined as “essential businesses,” such as grocery stores, farms, childcare centers, banks, “big-box” retailers, factories and healthcare facilities.
The dire situation has prompted a growing list of state and local governments to re-impose restrictions they eased during a summertime ebb in COVID-19 outbreaks.
The governors of six states in the Northeast, the region hit hardest in the early months of the pandemic, plan an emergency meeting this weekend to coordinate responses, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
The country’s patchwork of measures will likely remain intact after Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20 following his election defeat of Republican President Donald Trump, the head of the Democrat’s coronavirus advisory board said.
“We’re not in a place where we’re saying shut the whole country down,” Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general, told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“Right now the way we should be thinking about this is more like a series of restrictions that we dial up or down depending on how bad a spread is taking place in a specific region,” he said.
Murthy’s comments were a sharp rebuttal to Trump’s repeated campaign assertions that Biden was intent