Alex Azar: ‘Window is closing’ for U.S. to control pandemic

Illustration courtesy of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

June 28 (UPI) — Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Sunday said the “window is closing” for the United States to control the COVID-19 pandemic as infections in the nation surpassed 2.5 million amid surges in cases in various parts of the country.

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Azar warned that if Americans “act irresponsibly, if we don’t socially distance, if we don’t use face coverings in settings where we can’t social distance, if we don’t practice appropriate hygiene” then the disease will spread.

“Things are very different from two months ago … So it is a very different situation, but this is a very, very serious situation and the window is closing for us to take action and get this under control,” Azar said.

Coronavirus cases in the United States rose to 2,530,587 as of Sunday afternoon and the nation also reported a total of 125,630 deaths as the country leads the world in both categories, according to figures by John’s Hopkins University.

Florida, Texas and Arizona have reported some of the most rapid surges followed by other states such as California and the Carolinas.

Texas has risen to fourth in the nation in total cases with a total of 143, 371 positive cases after reporting 5,747 new cases on Saturday, hospitalizations also hit a record high for a 16th consecutive day on Saturday with 5,523 patients receiving treatment. Florida has reported a total of 141,075 cases — fifth highest in the nation — after reporting 8,577 new cases on Sunday and a single-day record 9,564 cases on Saturday.

Both states on Friday ordered bars to close amid the rising infections. Also on Sunday, Florida’s Broward County announced it would close beaches from July 3 through July 5 ahead of the July 4th weekend, following an earlier decision by Miami-Dade County to do the same.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom also ordered bars to close in seven counties, while recommending they do so in eight other counties on Sunday and has pushed for leaders in the state’s Imperial County to reinstate a stay-at-home order as the county’s 14-day average positivity rate has approached 23 percent and the state moved into second place in the nation in total cases at 211,243 positive cases.

Cases in Arizona surged by 3,858 on Sunday as the state reported a total of 3,858 positive cases. North Carolina reported 1,605 new cases on Sunday for a total of 62,214, while South Carolina reported 1,366 new cases for a total of 33,221 in the state.

Tom Frieden, the former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, told Fox News on Sunday that the United States will see at least 15,000 new coronavirus related deaths in states that have taken steps to ease restrictions and reopen businesses in the coming weeks such as South Carolina, Florida and Texas.

“If you open when cases are still increasing, as many states did, it’s like leaning into a left hook,” said Frieden. “You’re going to get hit hard. And that’s what’s happening.”

New York, which leads the nation in cases and deaths and was once the epicenter for the virus in the United States, reported 616 new cases — it’s lowest daily total since March — and 5 new deaths for a total of 392,539 cases and 24,835.

In neighboring New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced 354 new cases for a total of 171, 182 — third in the nation — and 30 new deaths for the second-highest death toll in the nation at 13,121.


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