Officials Warn It Could Quickly Change If People Aren't Careful

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10/CNN) — Georgia and Florida are among several states across the US seeing a decline in new coronavirus cases, a US top official said this week, though he warned things could quickly change again if Americans aren’t careful.

US trends are now “going in the right direction,” said Adm. Brett Giroir, the Trump administration official overseeing US coronavirus testing, attributing the decline in part to safety protocols like masks and social distancing.

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At least 20 states are seeing a downward trend in new cases compared to the previous week while 18 states are reporting a steady number of new cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Georgia and Florida new cases are trending down according to the Worldometer.  Georgia cases are down to about half their July peak and Florida is down by about two-thirds its peak.  Both states are still higher than their April highs.

State leaders who have reported a leveling of new cases also attribute it to adherence to safety guidelines. In Washington state, where health officials say the rate of new cases is slowing down, Secretary of Health Dr. John Wiesman said “face coverings have made a difference.”

Giroir said US states and jurisdictions that are reporting an upward trajectory of new cases include Guam, Hawaii, California, Indiana and Vermont. Hawaii’s state capital dramatically tightened restrictions on gatherings — both indoors and outdoors — in an effort to control a surge of cases.

Despite the hopeful signs, now isn’t a time to let up or ease measures, Giroir cautioned.

“This could turn around very quickly if we’re not careful,” Giroir said. “We saw that early on after Memorial Day and the couple weeks afterward that sort of started the current outbreak.”

The surge in cases over the summer came weeks after states lifted restriction to curb the spread of the virus. Much of the progress made during stay-at-home orders was quickly lost, officials said, as some Americans celebrated the start of summer by packing beaches and parties with little distance between them. By July, many states, including Florida and Georgia, saw new peaks that crushed earlier records set during April and May. In response, more than half the country halted their reopening plans and enacted new measures to slow a spread that experts said was out of control.

US leaders appealed to young people to skip out on social gatherings and practice safety guidelines. Younger groups, experts said, helped drive the rise in cases over the summer. As they head back to college campuses now, universities have already reported hundreds of positive tests.

It’s unclear what could happen next, but experts have offered grim predictions as flu season approaches. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said the consequences of reopening the country too quickly could be devastating, noting Americans already saw what happened when states skipped over the guideposts.

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And last month, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the fall and winter are going to be “probably one of the most difficult times that we (have) experienced in American public health.”

Georgia, Texas, Florida report most infections per capita

Meanwhile, states across the South and West continue to report the most daily infections when adjusted for population.

Georgia leads the country per capita with the most cases per day over a seven-day average, followed by Texas and Florida. All three states pushed for some of the most aggressive reopening plans months ago. Earlier in the summer, experts called Florida the new epicenter, as hospitals statewide reached ICU capacity and officials announced thousands of new infections each day.

The governor, like Georgia’s governor, never issued a statewide mask mandate.

As Georgia schools reopened this month, many reported hundreds of students and staff were in quarantine after officials identified positive cases. A photo of a crowded North Paulding High School hallway with nearly no masks in sight made headlines and raised concern across the country. One school district announced it would begin the year with virtual learning after more than 90 staff members were forced to quarantine.

An August 16 White House Coronavirus Task Force report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Georgia was in the red zone and recommended the state do more to fight coronavirus, including close down bars and gyms, limit indoor dining at restaurants and reduce social gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

“If we’re the highest (per) capita in the state right now that’s because Texas and Florida and Arizona and some of the states that were peaking a week or two ago are on the downclimb,” Kemp said.

Kemp’s office told CNN in a statement the state’s health department continues to “urge Georgians to wear a mask, watch their distance, wash their hands, and follow public health guidelines.” Kemp press secretary Cody Hall said the state’s 7-day case average is down and hospitalizations are down, adding the state’s transmission rate is 0.85.

“The data is encouraging but we cannot take our foot off the gas,” Hall said in a statement.

©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to the story.

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