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Florida, Texas and Arizona set records for daily COVID-19 cases

Florida, Texas and Arizona all set records this week for the highest numbers of new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day as the virus continues to spread throughout the southern United States.

Florida reported 2,783 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, while Texas reported 4,098 cases and Arizona reported 2,392, with all states passing their previous records for highest single-day increases.

Governors in those states have argued that the increasing number of cases is a product of expanded testing, but public health experts have pointed to warning signs that there is more transmission within communities, including an increasing number of tests coming back positive.

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“Part of it is increased testing, but the positivity rate is going up,” former Food & Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“This is an outbreak that’s underway. It’s expanding. They’re at risk of tipping over,” he said of Texas, specifically. 

He added that the positivity rates are already increasing in Florida and Arizona.

“These are outbreaks that are underway. They’re worrisome because they're happening in the summer,” Gottlieb said.

Increasing hospitalizations is also a sign of a growing outbreak, and Arizona and Texas both reported record highs this week. 

Arizona reached a new high of 1,582 COVID-19 hospitalizations Tuesday, while Texas reported 2,518 the same day. Florida does not publicly release that data. 

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Experts believe the outbreaks are connected to the early lifting of lockdown orders and restrictions on businesses last month, as well as the lack of social distancing and mask wearing.

Arizona and Texas also reported record-high COVID-19 hospitalizations Wednesday. 

In Texas, mayors have asked Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to lift an executive order that bans localities from fining citizens who don’t wear masks in public, citing an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Abbott urged people to stay home Tuesday but also urged them not to be alarmed about the rise in cases. He attributed the spike in cases to batch testing data coming in from “congregate settings” such as prisons and nursing homes. About 43 percent of the 2,098 cases reported Tuesday were among inmates at state prisons. The second-highest single-day increase in cases was reported by the state last week at 2,500.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisRomney blasts Trump lack of leadership during pandemic: 'It's a great human tragedy' Florida officials were asked to avoid public statements on coronavirus before election: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalates MORE (R) on Tuesday also attributed the increase in cases to more testing, saying “we are not shutting down.”

“We are going to go forward and we are going to continue to protect the most vulnerable,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a report published this week noted that while average daily reported cases and deaths are declining there are still signs of ongoing community transmission across the country. 

Former CDC Director Tom Frieden, who served during the Obama administration, said in a blog post Tuesday that the percentage of tests coming back positive is increasing in the U.S., indicating the spread of COVID-19 has been increasing for at least a week.

Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, South Carolina and Alaska are all seeing large numbers of cases and growing percentages of tests coming back positive. Hospitalizations from the virus in Texas have climbed roughly 8 percent in the past two weeks, he said. 

"This is not the kind of trend you want to see," Frieden wrote. "This is NOT from more testing, it's from more spread."

Updated at 4:30 pm.