Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warned on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that the "window is closing" for the U.S. to take action and get the coronavirus under control, calling the current state of the outbreak a "very, very serious situation."

Why it matters: Azar's rhetoric stands in stark contrast to that of President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who claimed at a press briefing on Friday that the U.S. has "flattened the curve" and that much of the surge in new cases is attributable to an increase in testing.

  • Throughout the pandemic, health officials on the White House coronavirus task force have sounded the alarm about the seriousness of the crisis while political figures like Trump have sought to paint a rosier picture.
  • The reality is that the U.S. today is getting closer to the worst-case scenario envisioned in the spring — a nationwide crisis, made worse by a vacuum of political leadership, threatening to overwhelm hospitals and spread out of control.

The big picture: Azar argued that the U.S. is in better shape now than it was two months ago thanks to advances in surveillance infrastructure, testing, personal protective equipment and therapeutics.

  • He was frank, however, about the assessment that hospitalizations and deaths could increase in the next few weeks, as they're generally considered a lagging indicator to new cases.
  • Azar also pushed back on the idea that the new surge in cases is a result of reopening the country too fast, arguing, "That's not so much about what the law says on the reopening than what our behaviors are within that. If we act irresponsibly, if we don't social distance, if we don't use face coverings ... we're going to see spread of disease."

Go deeper: The coronavirus surge is real, and it's everywhere

Go deeper

Updated 23 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

The weekly number of new global coronavirus cases reported last week reached its highest level yet, the World Health Organization said.

The big picture: From September 14-20, there were nearly 2 million new cases, a 6% increase compared to the previous week, the WHO said.

20 hours ago - Health

Hospitals want more time to repay pandemic loans

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Hospitals are approaching the deadline to repay coronavirus relief loans from the federal government, but their finances are still suffering as the pandemic drags on, Kaiser Health News reports.

The big picture: Hospitals — especially rural hospitals that were suffering before the pandemic — are hoping Congress will grant them an extension.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
20 hours ago - Health

Supply shortages continue to plague COVID-19 testing

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Supply shortages are still a problem for coronavirus testing, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: Health systems are being forced to limit who gets tested, sometimes limiting tests to the most essential patients — which is far from an ideal testing strategy.

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