U.S. officials see ‘signs of progress’ in Sun Belt coronavirus outbreaks, though deaths remain high

People wearing face masks as a preventive measure walk at Lake Eola Park, Florida, July 25, 2020.

Paul Hennessy | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday they are seeing “signs of progress” in southern states fighting the coronavirus pandemic, though the number of deaths remains high. 

“No one’s declaring victory,” Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary at HHS, told reporters on a conference call. ”Very consistent with what we’ve said over the last few weeks, we continue to see signs of progress across the Sun Belt and diffusely throughout the country.”

Giroir said the number of coronavirus tests that come back positive is beginning to level off in some parts of the U.S. and “starting to drop in some places precipitously because of the actions that we’re taking.” He cited “really great compliance with mask-wearing, avoiding indoor crowded areas and good hygiene” as the reason for the decline in positive tests. 

“I’m the testing guy and testing is important,” he said. “The testing will not control an outbreak when you have 70,000 new infections documented today. What will control the outbreak is the personal responsibility that we have been talking about for months.” 

On Wednesday, daily new cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. topped 70,000 again for the first time in almost a week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Still, new cases have dropped in recent days, driving the seven-day average of new cases down more than 3% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of the data from Hopkins. 

Roughly half of all new cases are still coming from three states: Florida, Texas and California, which accounted for nearly 34,100 new cases on Wednesday, according to data from Hopkins. This week, the United States surpassed the grim milestone of 150,000 deaths from the coronavirus. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates. 

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