After showing some signs of progress in flattening the COVID-19 curve, America saw a jump in cases throughout June, especially in states that eased back their pandemic safeguards early.
John Brownstein, an epidemiologist at Boston Children's Hospital, told ABC News that social gatherings, in general, are a leading cause for the rise in COVID-19 cases; however, risks were mitigated with facial coverings and social distancing. Increased testing in those locations also helped to track the disease.
"These are important activities that people are undertaking and it is possible to do so in a safe way and in a broad sort of effort to protect those who are practicing their right to protest," he told ABC News.
The progress prompted hundreds of thousands of city employees to return to work.
Cities in other parts of the country, however, have a different story.
Areas of Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia and other states saw the number of new cases skyrocket. Texas in particular had 93,418 cases in June, an average of 3,113 cases a day, according to its health department. On June 30, it saw a record of 6,975 cases, the health department said.
Those states were some of the first locations to reopen their business and relax their safety restrictions when it came to crowds. Leaders of municipalities such as San Antonio, Tampa and Houston pushed for tougher restrictions, including mandatory face coverings and a reduction of crowds, but governors only started issuing new health safeguards by the end of the month.
"In states that are experiencing real sort of resurgences, unfortunately that does mean that gatherings should really be limited," Brownstein said.
By the middle of the month, the U.S. crossed a grim milestone: 2 million confirmed cases.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence didn't support a mandatory face covering order for the country and left the decision to local leaders.
Brownstein said face coverings "can actually have a real impact on population health" as the pandemic increases.
As the summer progresses, Brownstein warned that the country could see the increases throughout the coming weeks and Americans need to take the health precautions seriously.
"There's been a lot of talk about waves. Are we out of the first wave? When is the second wave? I think we have to remove that from our discussion because I think it creates confusion," he said. "It makes us safe to assume that the summer is going to save us and that's clearly not happening."
This report was featured in the Tuesday, July 7, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.
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