Health secretary says 'lack of personal responsibility' has led to states halting reopenings

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Monday appeared to blame a rise in coronavirus cases across several U.S. states on a lack of "personal responsibility" during an appearance on CBS.

Speaking with "CBS This Morning," Azar, in a response to a question over whether some U.S. states reopened too quickly, said that Americans must practice smart procedures to stop the virus from spreading, including social distancing and wearing masks, but added that the American economy needed to "get back to work."

"We've got to get back to work, back to school and back to health care," Azar said. "We've seen states that have reopened just as much as the counties that are at issue here and have not seen these kinds of outbreaks."

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"If we don't act responsibly, we're going to see governors ... pull back on those reopenings," he continued.

Azar's comments come as dozens of new coronavirus cases have spiked in states nationwide. Some states, including Texas and Arizona, are reporting sharp spikes that threaten to overwhelm intensive care unit capacity.

The spikes in the cases across the U.S. follow weeks of efforts by numerous state leaders to reopen their economies, which have been largely shuttered for months due to restrictions put in place to stop the virus from spreading. Millions of Americans have filed jobless claims as businesses have been forced to furlough or lay off workers during the pandemic.

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Azar has repeatedly insisted in interviews that the blame lies on individual Americans, not state leaders, for the rise in coronavirus cases.

“This isn't about reopening or not reopening. We've got many communities in states that are just as reopened as these Southern states but aren't experiencing this,” Azar said during an interview on Sunday.

“We've got to get to the bottom of why we're seeing these cases surge in this area, but at its core, we all own as individuals, our individual behavior to make sure that we are practicing appropriate social distancing and wearing facial covering when we're not able to and practicing good personal hygiene and especially protecting our most vulnerable citizens.”