July 6, 2020 / 8:20 PM / a month ago

Where COVID-19 is spreading fastest as U.S. cases rise 27% in past week

(Reuters) - The United States saw a 27% increase in new cases of COVID-19 in the week ended July 5 compared to the previous seven days, with 24 states reporting positivity test rates above the level that the World Health Organization has flagged as concerning.

FILE PHOTO: Sun seekers gather at Clearwater Beach, which remains open despite high numbers of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in the state, on Independence Day in Clearwater, Florida, U.S. July 4, 2020. REUTERS/Drone Base

Nationally, 7.5% of diagnostic tests came back positive last week, up from 7% the prior week and 5% two weeks ago, according to a Reuters analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

The WHO considers a positivity rate above 5% to be a cause for concern because it suggests there are more cases in the community that have not yet been uncovered.

Arizona’s positivity test rate was 26%, up from 24% last week; Florida’s rose to 19% from 16%, and Mississippi was 17%, up from 13%, according to the analysis.

Graphic: Where coronavirus cases are rising in the United States - here

Testing rose by 7.5% last week and set a new record high with over 721,000 tests performed on July 3.

Deaths, which health experts say are a lagging indicator, continued to fall nationally to 3,447 people in the week ended July 5. A handful of states, however, have reported increases in deaths for at least two straight weeks, including Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee.

Nationally, new COVID-19 cases have risen every week for five straight weeks. Thirty-three states, mostly in the West and South, reported more new cases of COVID-19 last week compared to the previous week, the analysis found.

Many states have temporarily halted the reopening of their economies or ordered some businesses to close. California, Kansas, Oregon and West Virginia have become the latest to mandate wearing masks in public, but at least 30 states, including Florida, have no statewide mandate.

Cases continue to decline in the Northeast on a weekly basis, but some Midwest states are seeing increases again, including Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

New Hampshire, where President Donald Trump plans an outdoor rally on Saturday, posted a near 30% drop in new infections to 140 last week, the biggest percentage drop in the nation, according to the analysis.

Graphic: World-focused tracker with country-by-country interactive - here

Reporting by Chris Canipe in Kansas City, Missouri, and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Editing by Tiffany Wu

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