“We must act” – HHS secretary Azar warns of “closing the window” to stop the coronavirus outbreak

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar wears a face mask during a press conference on coronavirus testing at the White House Rose Garden May 11, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Secretary of health and social services Alex Azar warned Sunday that there was no time for the United States to curb the spread of the coronavirus as cases are increasing across the country, particularly in the South and West of the United States.

“We have the tools to do it,” Azar told NBC Meet The Press. “But the window closes, we have to act, and people as individuals have to shoulder their responsibilities. We have to get away from society, we have to wear our face covers where we can’t get away from society , especially in those hot areas. ”

Azar’s warning comes as President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence say the country has “flattened the curve” and that new cases can be attributed to increased testing capacity. However, former CDC director Tom Frieden told Fox News on Sunday that the increase was due to community transmission in states that had reopened too quickly.

“As a doctor, scientist, epidemiologist, I can tell you with 100% certainty that in most states where you see an increase, it is a real increase,” said Frieden. “It’s not more testing, it’s more spread of the virus.”

The United States has experienced consecutive days of record peaks in cases where several states have quickly lifted lock restrictions to reopen their economies.

On Friday, the United States reported an additional 45,255 cases of coronavirus, record number new daily cases that brought the total of cases beyond 2.5 million across the country. The most affected states are Texas, Arizona, Florida, California and Nevada.

On Friday, the seven-day US average of new cases increased more than 41% from a week ago.

The country is better able to fight the virus than it was at the start of the epidemic, according to Azar, who highlighted the increase in testing capacity, treatment, contact tracing, provision of personal protective equipment and hospital capacity.

Azar said the number of hospitalizations and deaths could increase in the coming weeks. Deaths from COVID-19 are generally behind other data points such as hospitalizations and infections.

Azar, in an interview with CNN State of the Union, denied that the premature reopening of states was linked to the spike in some cases and instead blamed “inappropriate individual behavior” that spread the virus.

“It is not so much what the reopening law says as what our behavior in this context is,” said Azar.

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