In a rare public briefing, top officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have warned that cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) are increasing in about 75 percent of the U.S.
Dr. Jay Butler, who serves as deputy director for infectious diseases at CDC, said there has been a "distressing trend" in which coronavirus case numbers are on the rise.
"This past week, we've seen nearly 60,000 cases a day on average, as well as 700 deaths," he said.
Butler appeared at a joint briefing late Wednesday with Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC's director, and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar.
While the increase in cases appeared to coincide with the resumption of school and college students’ return to campus, more recent data suggests that may not be the primary cause of the surge.
A report from Louisiana health officials this week cast strong doubt a strong link between in-classroom school and the increase in cases. The report said the spread of the virus is more closely tied to extracurricular activities and not classroom time.
Letting down their guard
Butler believes it’s more a matter of Americans letting down their guard, deciding to get back to a “normal” life. Things that might seem safe, he says, aren’t.
"Smaller, more intimate gatherings with family, friends, and neighbors may be driving infections," Butler said. "We get tired of wearing masks, but it continues to be as important as it's ever been."
At the same time, Redfield said the current 14-day quarantine period mandated by the CDC, for someone who may have been exposed to the virus, may be excessive. He said CDC is exploring the option of reducing the quarantine period to 10 days.
The health officials did not have any new information on when a coronavirus vaccine may be ready for distribution under emergency use authorization (EUA). Independently, pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and Moderna have said their vaccine candidates could be ready by late November or early December.