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"Now we have to behave" – HHS Secretary Azar warns towards closing the window to cease the coronavirus tip

Minister of Health and Human Services Alex Azar wears a face mask while attending a press conference on coronavirus testing in the White House Rose Garden on May 11, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Minister of Health and Human Services Alex Azar warned on Sunday that the US is running out of time to curb the spread of the coronavirus as cases are increasing across the country, particularly in the American south and west.

"We have the tools for this," Azar told NBC's Meet The Press. "But the window closes, we have to act, and people as individuals have to take responsibility. We have to create social distance, we have to wear our face covers where we cannot achieve social distance, especially in these hot zones."

Azar's warning comes when President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence claim the country has "flattened the curve" and that new cases are due to increased testing capacity. However, former CDC director Tom Frieden told Fox News Sunday that the increase was due to community broadcasting in states that were reopening too quickly.

"As a doctor, scientist, epidemiologist, I can tell you with 100% certainty that most of the countries where you see an increase are real increases," said Frieden. "It's not more tests, it's more spread of the virus."

In the United States, there have been several consecutive days of record highs when a number of states have quickly lifted the restrictions to reopen their economies.

The United States reported 45,255 additional coronavirus cases on Friday, a record number of new daily cases that totaled more than 2.5 million nationwide. The most affected countries are Texas, Arizona, Florida, California and Nevada.

As of Friday, the 7-day average of new cases in the US rose by more than 41% compared to a week ago.

The country is in a stronger position to fight the virus than when the outbreak began, Azar said, pointing to increased testing capacity, treatments, contact tracking, personal protective equipment and hospital capacity.

Azar said the number of hospital stays and deaths could increase in the next few weeks. COVID-19 deaths generally lag behind other data points such as hospitalization and infections.

In an interview with CNN's State of the Union, Azar denied that states that reopened prematurely were associated with the increase in certain cases and instead accused "inappropriate individual behavior" that the virus has spread.

"It's not so much about what the law says about reopening, it's more about how we behave in it," said Azar.

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