The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday that states may need to again take up strict social distancing measures if coronavirus cases begin to go up.
CDC deputy director for infectious diseases, Jay Butler, told reporters Friday mitigation efforts as strict as those taken in March may be needed if cases go up “dramatically.”
“Right now, communities are experiencing different levels of transmission occurring, as they gradually ease up onto the community mitigation efforts and gradually reopen,” Butler said.
“If cases begin to go up again, particularly if they go up dramatically, it’s important to recognize that more mitigation efforts such as what were implemented back in March may be needed again,” he added.
Butler said that the decision to reenter lockdown would have to be made locally, based on “what is happening within the community regarding disease transmission.”
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpassed 2 million this week, as deaths reached over 116,000.
The U.S. has seen a 36.5 percent increase in daily cases in recent days amid street protests and states' reversals of shutdown policies, a striking difference compared to the top 10 other countries with the most COVID-19 infections to date.
Part of the increase could also be due to more testing, which hit a daily record of 545,690 tests last Friday, according to Reuters.
In the U.S., nine states – Texas, Arkansas, South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina, Oregon, Florida and Utah – all set new highs Wednesday based on seven-day rolling-case averages, according to The Washington Post.
Five states – Montana, Arkansas, Utah, Arizona and Texas – have seen coronavirus hospitalizations rise by at least 35 percent.
On Thursday, the Florida Department of Health confirmed 1,698 additional cases of COVID-19 within the preceding 24 hours, nearly a 20 percent increase from the state's previous high of 1,419 reported last Thursday.
While South Carolina has also seen its highest number of daily cases this week, Gov. Henry McMaster relayed that the Palmetto State wouldn't impose any new restrictions on the public. But he stressed the importance of taking voluntary measures to stay safe.
“Shutting down is not the answer,” he said, according to the Post. “People have to be able to go and work for a living.”
Health officials have said they fear nationwide protests which drew tens of thousands in some cases following the death of George Floyd could contribute to the spread of coronavirus, even as many protesters wore masks.
"Masks can help, but it's masks plus physical separation," Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview on "Good Morning America" Wednesday. "And when you get congregations like we saw with the demonstrations … that's taking a risk."
CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a House hearing last week that the protests could serve as a “seeding event” for COVID-19.
“I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event,” Redfield told Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla. Redfield suggested that protesters get tested to prevent spreading the virus.
At another point in the hearing, in response to a question from Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., Redfield addressed the protests and people crowding on beaches without face masks by saying that the CDC is “very concerned that our public health message isn’t resonating.”
Fox News' Ronn Blitzer and David Aaro contributed to this report.