The ongoing U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic is focusing on testing and contact tracing to mitigate the spread of the virus as the economy continues to reopen around the country, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.
"We've got about 60 counties that we call hotspots that we're looking at that, that we're really focused on," Azar said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV's Emerald Robinson on "The Chris Salcedo Show."
The vulnerable and elderly will remain a focus, along with prisons and food processing plants -- the meat-packing industry, Azar stressed, saying "one cannot simply put this virus in a box and predict what it will do."
"We don't want to see any cases arise, but the good news is we have the tools to deal with those kind of localized outbreaks," he said. "We can surge the state and locals. We at CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] can surge in, we can test everybody, we contact trace, we isolate, we treat individuals and we deal with any type of community spreading from that.
"What we can do is have the surveillance systems, testing systems, healthcare systems and public health capacity to deal with it, if it does," he added.
Among the potential COVID-19 spread hotspots are the George Floyd protest locations in major cities.
"We are aggressively looking, as we reopen, as we've seen these protest activities, we're obviously aggressively looking through our surveillance systems," Azar said. "We don't see indications yet, but it's probably too early to see manifestations yet -- but we're watching very closely."
Azar wanted to be clear: He isn't suggesting Americans can't get back to normal safely as they work, go to school, worship and participate in protests.
"Let's be real clear: There's a long tradition of protest in the United States, especially where we have cases of grotesque injustice as we saw on the George Ford case, but we also, separately, can be getting back to our communities, getting back to work, back to school. ... I'd like to get back to worship," Azar concluded. "We can do that in a way that's safe."
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