NEW YORK (Reuters) — The percentage of COVID-19 tests taken in New York state that have come back positive has inched up to 1.5%, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday, a worrisome trend for the former epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus epidemic.
The rise in positivity in New York above the 1% target comes as 27 other states recorded increases in the number of cases for two straight weeks.
While New York's positive test rate remains much lower than those in some midwestern states where 15% of tests were coming back positive, it marks a significant uptick from the state's rate, which has hovered at 1% or below for weeks.
"It's basically Brooklyn, Orange and Rockland that are increasing this number," Cuomo told reporters on Monday, adding that state health officials were looking into COVID-19 clusters in these locations.
Nationwide, coronavirus cases were rising in 30 of the 50 states on Monday, the first time that many have trended upward since Aug. 2, according to a Reuters analysis of data for the past two weeks.
The number of new cases has risen for two weeks in a row in 27 out of 50 states, with North Carolina and New Mexico both reporting increases above 50% last week, according to a Reuters analysis.
Cases in New York state have risen 4.4% so far in September, one of the smallest increases in the country, according to a Reuters tally.
Cuomo urged New Yorkers to remain vigilant in mask-wearing and warned of consequences if they do not comply.
"It's not time to get tired because the virus isn't tired," he said.
The Midwest has emerged as the country's new hotspot, with hospitalizations surging in some states.
Wisconsin set records for new cases twice last week and is now reporting more new infections each day than Florida. South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming have all set records for new daily cases three times this month.
The positivity rate has risen to 26% in South Dakota, up from 17% last week, according to an analysis using testing data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak. According to the analysis, on Monday, Wisconsin's rate was 19%, Iowa's was 16%, Missouri's was 16%, Kansas' was 15% and Nebraska's 14%.
The World Health Organization considers rates above 5% concerning because it suggests there are more cases in the community that have not yet been uncovered.
U.S. top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday that he was concerned about the trend as the weather in the U.S. gets colder and people spend more time indoors, increasing the likelihood of spread.
"We're not in a good place ... because as we get into the fall and the winter you really want the level of community spread to be as low as you can possibly get it," Fauci said.
The United States is reporting 45,000 new infections on average each day, compared with 40,000 a week ago and 35,000 two weeks ago.
Deaths have generally been trending downward in the United States for about six weeks. Deaths are a lagging indicator and can take several weeks to rise after an increase in cases.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter, Lisa Shumaker and Susan Heavey; Editing by Aurora Ellis)