“We need to remain focused. We need to remain strong,” the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove said. “We need to accept that this is challenging, but use these challenges to really put it towards something positive and fight this pandemic together.”

New restrictions were put in place by many US states after parts of the country began reopening and — several weeks later — saw a spike in cases. In May, when most states first began lifting restrictions and images of crowded bars and parties emerged, experts warned that without social distancing and face coverings, there would likely come a surge. Months since those first reopenings, states across the South are reporting thousands of new cases each day and as some seem to near a peak of cases, there are parts in the Midwest that are now raising alarm.

But there are some states that have gotten it right by not letting up on restrictions after their case numbers began dipping. Among them, Connecticut, which has one of the lowest infection rates in the country.

The state is in its second phase of reopening, where restaurants are limited to 50% indoor capacity and bars — which health officials across the country have said fueled the spread of the virus — remain closed. All businesses that reopen must first certify with the state they are following coronavirus-related guidelines.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, praised the state Monday.

“You’re not pulling back on your vigilance, and making sure you don’t have resurgence of cases that would put you back, rather than stay where you are and going forward,” Fauci said.

Other states, like New York, which were slower to reopen, lifted restrictions by regions, and are cracking down on individuals and businesses not adhering to guidelines, are also reporting good news. New York’s positivity rate over the weekend was lower than 1%, the governor said.

Across the country, more than 4.7 million have been infected since the start of the pandemic and at least 155,469 have died. Health officials project there will be thousands more deaths in the coming weeks.

Four states top 400,000 cases

At least 13 states have reported more than 100,000 coronavirus infections and four of them — California, Florida, Texas and New York — have recorded more than 400,000.

California, with more than 516,000 positive cases, has reported the most infections in the nation, but is beginning the week on a positive note. The state reported a seven-day average of cases of about 7,764 Monday, which is down about 21% from the previous week, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

In Los Angeles County, officials said they’re cautiously optimistic as data trends seem to be stabilizing and moving slightly downward. Los Angeles is seeing a seven-day average of about 2,600 cases per day, down from a couple weeks ago when that same average was more than 3,000 cases each day.

Florida has the second-highest number of cases in the country, with more than 491,000 recorded infections.

Two teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 have also died in the state, according to state data, bringing the total number of minors in Florida who have died in relation to the virus to seven.

In Texas, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who in July proposed a two-week stay-at-home order to help drive down cases, said Monday the city will be issuing citations and fines to people who are not following the state’s mask mandate. The state has reported more than 455,000 infections and more than 8,000 people are hospitalized statewide.

“When we are encountering people on patrols, out and about, and we are seeing that they do not have their mask on when they are in public and around other people, we will provide the necessary warning,” Turner said. “And then a failure to heed to that warning will lead to a citation and a $250 fine,” he said.

Fauci: Colleges doing regular Covid-19 tests ‘should be fine’

And while cases nationwide are still climbing, the key to reopening college campuses safely will be regular testing, Fauci said Monday.

Reopening plans should include “testing people before they get there, once they get there, testing them and even keeping them quarantined for the amount of time of the quarantine, which as you know is about 14 days,” he said.

Colleges should be careful with people coming in from outside, Fauci said, adding, “I think if they maintain the guidelines that are put together for people coming back, that they should be fine.”

As universities navigate a return to campus, so are schools across the country, many of which have already announced they will be going virtual for the first weeks of the academic year.

New research suggests strategies that could be key in helping get students back to class include scaled-up testing and effective contact tracing in order to track down anyone who may have been exposed to a positive case.
But the decisions haven’t been easy. Some parents have demanded their children return to class and guidelines published by the CDC last month also pushed for reopening schools in areas that weren’t seeing high transmission rates. But many educators and other parents have called for in-person instruction to be postponed, fearing a return to school buildings will help fuel further transmission of the virus.

Gatherings need to stop, officials say

Despite the country’s ongoing battle with the virus and with more schools possibly reopening in the coming weeks, some Americans are still not heeding to guidelines and are participating in social gatherings while often ditching face coverings.

In Houston, Turner said there have been “too many” gatherings in the forms of “house parties, backyard parties, barbecues, street parties, zydecos on the corners,” that are helping spread the virus.

“They need to stop,” he said.

It’s a message repeated almost daily by both local and state leaders from coast to coast.

In New York, authorities intercepted a boat party Saturday night, arrested several people and announced the boat’s operators had violated social distancing restrictions.

The party, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday, was “just really reckless, rude, irresponsible and illegal.”

“What if one of those people on that cruise gets sick and dies,” he asked. “It violates public decency.”

CNN’s Naomi Thomas, Raja Razek, Lauren Mascarenhas and Cheri Mossburg contributed to this report.

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