By Lisa Lambert and Maria Caspani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Coronavirus infections appear to be picking up in the U.S. Midwest as Americans travel around the country for the summer while the surge in the South shows signs of abating, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said on Thursday.

The coronavirus outbreak is “moving up” into Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska from the south “because of vacations and other reasons of travel,” Deborah Birx told Fox News.

Florida reported a record increase in new COVID-19 deaths for a third consecutive day on Thursday, according to the state health department, a day after the nationwide death toll surpassed 150,000, the highest in the world.

Arizona also reported a record increase in fatalities. The two states had been hotspots with major outbreaks, but new cases have recently slowed in both, according to a Reuters tally.

Among the dead was Herman Cain, a former Republican presidential candidate, according to a statement on his website and Facebook page.

Cain was diagnosed with the disease in late June after attending a Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally for President Donald Trump, an event where many attendees crowded close together without wearing face masks. Cain tweeted a photo of himself at the event without a mask, surrounded by fellow Trump supporters.

“We’re heartbroken, and the world is poorer: Herman Cain has gone to be with the Lord,” the statement on his website said.

The U.S. outbreak initially centered on the northeastern region around New York, which still has by far the highest number of fatalities of any state at more than 32,000.

On Thursday, Mark Levine, chair of the New York City Council health committee, expressed alarm that cases are rising again in the area, pointing to New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

“Now, for the first time since spring, cases are rising again in all three,” Levine wrote in a series of tweets. “NY is now an island within an island, with warning signs looming on all sides.”

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The surge and spread in novel coronavirus cases has hampered efforts to recover from an economic crisis brought on by stay-at-home orders and business closures that have thrown millions of Americans out of work.

On Thursday, Commerce Department data showed the U.S. economy contracted at its steepest pace since the Great Depression in the second quarter.

The bulk of the historic plunge in gross domestic product occurred in April after businesses, including restaurants, bars, theaters and factories, were shuttered in mid-March to slow the spread of the virus.

With the recovery faltering, pressure is mounting for the White House and Congress to agree on a new stimulus package as federal unemployment benefits are set to expire this week.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, blasted the lack of progress on a package and blamed Senate Republicans.

“We often talk about paralysis and Washington, gridlock in Washington – this is not gridlock, this is sabotage,” he told a daily news briefing.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Susan Heavey and Andrea Shalal in Washington, Maria Caspani in New York; Writing by Sonya Hepinstall; editing by John Stonestreet, Nick Zieminski and Bill Berkrot)

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