US health secretary Alex Azar has warned that “the window is closing” on the country’s chance to take action to effectively curb the coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases surpassed 2.5m.
The Health and Human Services secretary pointed to a recent spike in infections, particularly in the south and said people have “to act responsibly” by social distancing and wearing face masks especially “in these hot zones”.
For a third consecutive day on Saturday, the number of confirmed US cases rose by more than 40,000. In Arizona, cases have risen by 267% so far in June and jumped by a record 3,857 cases on Sunday, the eighth record-breaking increase this month. Overall, US deaths from Covid-19 have surpassed 125,000 with more than 2.5m confirmed cases, according to compiled by Johns Hopkins University, far more than any other country in the world.
The fresh surge in Covid-19 cases has been most pronounced in a handful of southern and western states that reopened earlier and more aggressively, with the support of the Trump administration, despite warnings by health officials to wait to see a steady decline in cases. Texas and Florida were among the states that reversed course on parts of their reopening plans last week as cases continue to increase.
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press program on Sunday morning, Azar was asked by presenter Chuck Todd why the US was failing to tackle the Covid-19 crisis, especially when so many other countries seem to be succeeding.
Azar acknowledged the US was “seeing surging in cases” and that the majority of those are among people under the age of 35, which means a “large number of those” will be asymptomatic, presenting a different challenge for authorities trying to get a grip on outbreaks.
“This is a very serious situation,” Azar said, adding that “the window is closing” to stop virus spread. “We have to act, and people as individuals have to act responsibly. We need to social distance, we need to wear our face coverings.”