If the U.S. wants to control the coronavirus this fall, it needs to start with the upcoming Labor Day weekend, top U.S. health officials are warning.
"Labor Day is coming up, and we need to stress personal responsibility," Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. "We have to go into the fall with decreasing cases like we're doing now. We can't risk a lack of personal responsibility."
Covid-19 cases are down 38% and new hospitalizations are down 37% across the country since they peaked in late July, he said. The U.S. has struggled to contain a summer of Covid-19 outbreaks after a resurgence of cases ripped through the Sun Belt states in June and July. Those cases originally began ticking up shortly after Memorial Day in May and continued to climb after the Fourth of July holiday.
"Why are we seeing this success? Because the national strategy is working," Giroir said, adding that states have implemented appropriate public health policies regarding face coverings, physical distancing, testing and contact tracing.
However, Giroir warned that seven states still have a so-called positivity rate, or the percentage of tests that are positive, above 10%. New Covid-19 cases were growing by 5% or more, based on a seven-day average, in 25 states as of Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
While new cases are declining in California, Texas, Arizona and Florida — states that saw some of the worst outbreaks over the summer — additional cases have started to rise in the Midwest and more rural parts of the country. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield has warned America's heartland "is getting stuck" as cases plateau instead of decline.
"We don't need to have a third wave in the heartland right now. We need to prevent that particularly as we're coming to the fall," Redfield told Dr. Howard Bauchner of the Journal of the American Medical Association on Aug. 20.
Giroir's concerns about the Labor Day weekend echo those from White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, who reportedly said on a White House conference call with governors Monday that the holiday will help determine whether the U.S. is able to get a "running start" this fall, according to the Associated Press.
"If we get through this weekend, as Dr. Fauci said yesterday on the governors' call, and we do what we're supposed to do, we're going to be in really good shape going into the fall," Giroir said on Tuesday's conference call.