U.S. testing czar optimistic, but urges restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge

4 months ago 26
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July 14 (UPI) -- Expecting COVID-19 deaths to rise as hospitalizations do, U.S. health officials are urging states with surging cases to close bars and reduce restaurant capacity, a top health official said Tuesday.

Navy Adm. Brett Giroir, the U.S. testing czar, told NBC News there is plenty of room for optimism that the coronavirus would be contained but expressed concern at the recent daily U.S. case totals. There were about 58,000 cases nationally on Monday, following a record 66,000 Saturday.

"None of us feel comfortable. Nobody's doing a victory lap. We are all very concerned," Giroir told NBC's Today.

Giroir added that there are signs, however, that the positivity rate has started to level off in states that have seen increases in cases lately, like Texas, California and Florida.

"These are the early indicators that we are turning the corner," he said. "This doesn't mean we have turned the corner.

"I want everybody to really understand -- you have got to physically distance, wear your mask, avoid bars, close bars in those hot areas, reduce restaurant capacity. If we keep doing those things, those early indicators will turn into successes for us."

Giroir's remarks came as the United States has recorded about 3.35 million cases to date and 135,600, according to figures Tuesday by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Cases are rising in several states.

"Miami is now the epicenter for the virus," Dr. Lilian M. Abbo, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Miami Health System and the chief of infection prevention for Jackson Health System, said at a news conference Monday. "What we were seeing in Wuhan [China] five months ago, we're now seeing here."

In Texas, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is seeking a two-week stay-home order after the city recorded more than 1,500 new cases on Monday.

"We need a two-week shutdown," he tweeted. "If we can not have a shutdown, then at least step back ... allow us to reset and reassess."

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo also called for a stay-home order last weekend, adding that "we need to stick with it this time until the hospitalization curve comes down."

The Texas Tribune reported Tuesday that hospitals are dangerously close to capacity.

In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown announced a ban on indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people due to an "alarming rise in COVID-19 case counts" statewide.

Officials reported 280 new cases and three additional deaths on Monday, with modeling estimates showing Oregon could be seeing as many as 7,300 new cases per day by the end of July.

"Each and every one of us needs to take action -- immediate action -- to slow the spread of the disease," Brown said, also expanding a face covering requirement to outdoor public spaces.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered dine-in restaurants, bars, movie theaters, zoos, museums and some other businesses to close after more than 8,300 new cases Monday.

New York on Tuesday began enforcement of a quarantine requirement for travelers from 19 states with high coronavirus transmission rates.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there will be fines of up to $2,000 for ignoring the quarantines.

"Out-of-state travelers from designated high-COVID states must provide their contact information upon arrival," he tweeted. "If you fail to provide it, you will receive a summons with a $2K fine. We're serious about enforcing quarantine."

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