Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Sunday that there is yet no surge in COVID-19 cases reported in areas that recently reopened non-essential businesses, but he said it's still too early to conclude such patterns.
"We are seeing that in places that are opening, we're not seeing this spike in cases," Azar said on CNN's "State of the Union" program. "We still see spikes in some areas that are, in fact, closed, very localized situations. And so this is going to be very important for us to watch the circumstances on the ground."
Azar said it will take time to identify and report new cases throughout the US as the important surveillance area is toward the hospital areas that need time to assemble data, and there will also be those who show no symptoms. Also, the virus reportedly has up to a 14-day incubation period, which could also create a delay in determining when people might be infected.
"It's still early days," Azar cautioned during an interview with CBS' "Face the Nation."
Nearly all 50 states in the US have started to reopen in some way, but only 14 have met federal guidelines for lifting measures in place to fight the spread of the virus, according to Reuters. Azar said it will also take time in states like Georgia and Florida that started reopening within the past month.
He placed the responsibility on local governments with how they handle reopening plans. Azar said local leaders must judge "whether a bar being open, a restaurant, a school is the right thing. These are very localized determinations; there should not be a one size fits all to reopening," he said.
"but reopen we must because it's not health versus the economy. It's health versus healthy," Azar said.
When Azar was asked about images of crowded bars in some parts of the country, the health and human services secretary said that was the cost of freedom.
"I think in any individual instance you're going to see people doing things that are irresponsible, that's part of the freedom that we have here in America," Azar said, according to Reuters .
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said it was impossible to know the projected path of the virus without more testing.
"We have no idea the size of this challenge to our country because we have not sufficiently tested," Pelosi said on the news program.