New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks in front of stacks of medical protective supplies during a news conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center which will be partially converted into a temporary hospital during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Peter Szekely and Maria Caspani

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday imposed a new round of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus as the infection rate climbed and hospitalizations soared in the state that was the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak in its early stages.

Cuomo ordered bars, restaurants and gyms in the state to shut down on-premises services at 10 p.m. nightly, and capped the number of people who could attend private parties at 10.

The new measures, which take effect on Friday, came a day after California and several states across the Midwest tightened restrictions on residents on Tuesday to try to curb the rapid spread of the virus.

“This is our LAST chance to stop a second wave,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted on Wednesday, as he announced the city-wide seven-day average rate of coronavirus tests coming back positive had hit 2.52%.

The city’s public school system, the nation’s largest, would be shut to in-person learning if that figure reaches 3%.

“We can do it, but we have to act NOW,” de Blasio said.

As COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths surge across the United States, more signs emerged that a second wave could engulf areas of the Northeast, which had managed to bring the pandemic under control after being battered last spring.

The United States as a whole reported more than 1,450 deaths on Tuesday, the highest single-day count since mid-August, according to a Reuters analysis.

U.S. COVID-19 cases climbed for seven consecutive days to reach more than 136,000 as of late Tuesday, while hospitalizations crossed 60,000 for the first time since the pandemic began, threatening to overwhelm systems in many parts of the country.

In New Jersey, one of the early U.S. hotspots, a spike in cases in Newark, the state’s largest city, prompted Mayor Ras Baraka to implement aggressive measures, including a mandatory curfew for certain areas.

In Newark, the positivity rate hovered at 19%, more than double the state’s 7.74% seven-day average, Baraka said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Stricter measures are required in the city’s hotspots in order to contain the virus and limit the spread,” he said.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced some restrictions on Monday in response to a rise in COVID-19 cases in the state, and outbreaks among bartenders.

In Maryland, where the positivity rate stood at 5.6% on Wednesday, officials warned about rising COVID-19 hospitalizations.

More than 800 people were being treated for the coronavirus at state hospitals as of Wednesday, according to Mike Ricci, the communications director of Gov. Larry Hogan, the highest daily count since April.

A record number of people died of COVID-19 in several Midwest and western states on Tuesday, including in Alaska, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Officials in states hardest-hit by the virus pleaded with residents to stay home as much as possible and heed the advice of experts by wearing masks, washing their hands and social distancing.

“It’s not safe to go out, it’s not safe to have others over, it’s just not safe. And it might not be safe for a while yet,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said during a primetime address on Tuesday. “So, please, cancel the happy hours, dinner parties, sleepovers and playdates at your home.”

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