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

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

Coronavirus outbreak linked to wedding reception in Maine

“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.

How universities are responding

Already more than a dozen colleges have reported cases on campus with outbreaks traced back to off-campus gatherings, athletics, Greek life, dorms or caught during move-in testing.

The University of Mississippi said in a memo Wednesday 15 student-athletes and one employee tested positive for the virus. Of the 15 athletes, 11 are on the same team but the university did not say which sports the positive tests came from.

Detroit teachers authorized a potential strike over Covid-19 safety fears

In the University of Connecticut, several students were removed from their on-campus housing after the university found they held an “unapproved gathering in a residence hall room.”

“Students were not wearing masks, closely assembled, and endangering not only their own health and wellbeing, but that of others at a time when UConn is working to protect our community and resume classes in the context of a deadly global pandemic,” Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, Eleanor JB Daugherty, and Executive Director of Residential Life, Pamela Schipani, wrote in a letter to the community Tuesday.

Fourteen Drake University students were asked to leave campus for two weeks after violating an agreement signed by students outlining safety protocols.

The University of Notre Dame announced all undergraduate classes will be remote for the next two weeks as the university tries to get a spike in cases under control. Michigan State University has also announced the year will start remotely for undergraduate students. In New York, Ithaca College announced remote instruction will be extended for students for the entire fall semester.

CNN’s Amanda Watts, Jill Martin, Melissa Alonso, Annie Grayer and Andy Rose contributed to this report.

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