By Faith Karimi and Douglas Wood, CNN
Updated 8:31 AM EDT, Thu June 25, 2020
Coronavirus has killed at least 121,979 people and infected nearly 2.4 million nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins.
Florida and Texas announced Wednesday that they'd recorded more than 5,000 new Covid-19 cases the prior day, a new daily record. California reported more than 7,000 cases, obliterating a record hit a day earlier.
In Texas, if the current case trajectory continues, Houston could be the hardest-hit city in the US with numbers rivaling those in Brazil. Infection numbers are also rising in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine.
"The big metro areas seem to be rising very quickly and some of the models are on the verge of being apocalyptic," Hotez told CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Models show that Houston could have a four-fold increase in the number of daily cases by July 4, he said, adding that states need to act to stop community transmission.
"That is really worrisome and as those numbers rise, we're seeing commensurate increases in the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions," he said. "You get to the point where you overwhelm ICUs and that's when the mortality goes up."
Hotez is also a professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology, and is working on a potential Covid-19 vaccine.
People wait in line to get tested for the coronavirus in Miami Beach, Florida on Wednesday.
Florida, Texas and California account for 27.4% of the 328 million people living in the US, according to the latest US Census Bureau estimates.
And while some politicians say the higher number of infections is due to increased testing, that is not the case, said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota.
As new cases and hospitalizations skyrocket, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urged people to stay home.
"Because the spread is so rampant right now, there's never a reason for you to have to leave your home," Abbott told CNN affiliate KBTX. "Unless you do need to go out, the safest place for you is at your home."
Officials encouraged mask wearing and social distancing in places like bars that are often overcrowded. Further state actions could be announced if the virus continues to spread at this rate, Abbott said.
In the nation's most populous state, Gov. Gavin Newsom pleaded with Californians to think of others by wearing masks, keeping a safe distance and washing their hands regularly.
He told residents to "love thy neighbors, like yourself, please" and urged younger people to be especially cautious.
"Be careful about Mom and Dad, and careful about your mother-in-law, your father-in-law, your grandparents," he said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has attributed the rise to more testing but others say community transmission is playing a key role as the state reopens. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said he'll ask the city commission to implement a civil fine of up to $250 for those not wearing a mask in public.
Miami implemented an order requiring masks or face coverings in public this week.
"Going out in public without a mask is like driving drunk," said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at George Washington University. "If you don't get hurt. You might kill somebody else."
A mother and daughter wear masks as they visit the beach Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif.
Arizona is also seeing the highest number of new cases per capita of any state in the country. It's had more new cases per capita than any state has had besides New York or New Jersey, according to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
The state has added about 2,700 new cases per day over the seven days that ended Tuesday. Adjusted for population, that's about 38 new cases per 100,000 people per day.
In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he plans to issue a new proclamation Thursday extending the Phase 2 restrictions under the current order for another 28 days.
"Simply put, we're heading in the wrong direction. We have more cases than we can justify just by the fact that they're doing more testing," Edwards said.
At least 26 states are seeing a rise in cases compared to the previous week, data from Johns Hopkins University show. Those states are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
In recent days, city and state leaders have announced that cases seem to be shifting to younger groups. They highlighted instances including parties and bars as sources of recent clusters.
Texas has temporarily suspended alcohol permits for at least 12 bars that violated coronavirus protocols.
CNN's Debra Goldschmidt, Jay Croft and Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.