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A record daily high of coronavirus cases was reached in the United States on Friday while President Donald Trump was on the campaign trail promising voters a quick end to the pandemic.
Nearly 80,000 new Covid-19 infections over the course of a day were reported, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, with 79,963 infections recorded between 8.30 pm Thursday and the same time Friday.
The pandemic has killed more than 224,000 and nearly 8.5 million cases have been recorded in the US. It has also cost millions more their jobs and has become the dominant issue of the presidential campaign, with Mr Trump on the defensive over his administration's handling of the crisis.
Mr Trump told supporters in Florida that the pandemic would end soon and accused Democratic rival Joe Biden of overstating the health crisis to scare Americans into voting for him.
Mr Biden earlier in the day said Mr Trump had given up on containing the virus and promised if he wins the November 3 election he will ask Congress to pass a comprehensive Covid-19 bill that he would sign within the first 10 days of taking office.
"He's quit on America. He just wants us to grow numb," Mr Biden said during a speech in his home city of Wilmington, Delaware. "I'm not going to shut down the economy. I'm not going to shut down the country. I'm going to shut down the virus."
During two rallies in the battleground state of Florida, Mr Trump mocked Mr Biden for saying in Thursday night's presidential debate that the United States was entering a "dark winter".
He said the former vice president and his Democratic allies were trying to scare people by overstating the virus threat.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2020
"We're going to quickly end this pandemic," Mr Trump, who has played down the threat since it started, said in The Villages, a sprawling retirement community in central Florida.
Later, Mr Trump told a big crowd in Pensacola that the election was a choice "between a boom and a lockdown".
Researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation warned on Friday the virus could kill more than half a million people in the United States by the end of February 2021. Roughly 130,000 lives could be saved if everybody wore masks, according to the study.
Wearing a mask is not a political statement. pic.twitter.com/HStwvMX95O
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 23, 2020
The campaign stops followed the second and final debate between the two contenders on Thursday night, when Mr Biden and Mr Trump sparred over how to handle the pandemic.
Mr Trump's campaign said on Friday it had raised $26 million around the debate. Mr Biden's campaign, which has trounced Mr Trump in the money race in recent months, did not release a fundraising figure from the debate but sent out appeals saying they were outraised.
"Debate days are usually some of our best for fundraising, but we didn't see the surge we expected," the campaign said in a fundraising alert to supporters.
With 11 days left until the election, more than 53 million Americans have already voted, a record-setting pace, according to the University of Florida's Elections Project. Michael McDonald, who administers the project, has said the election could set a modern turnout record, surpassing the 60 per cent participation rate of recent presidential elections.