June 22 (UPI) -- A former top U.S. health official says states experiencing spikes in new COVID-19 cases are at tipping point in which the outbreaks could potentially spiral into exponential growth.
"I think this week's going to really be a pivotal week for us to get a picture of where things are heading in states like Florida and Arizona and Texas, whether or not they're tipping over into exponential growth or not," Gottlieb told CNBC.
He pointed to a quickly rising percentage of people testing positive in states such as Florida, where the percentage of positive tests doubled in one week this month, jumping from 4.2 percent on June 7 to more than 8 percent on June 14.
The key metric, Gottlieb said, is how quickly the infection rate doubles.
"That's going to be a curve that's starting to look like exponential growth -- the doubling time coming down to something about a week or less," he said. "Right now, the doubling time is about 10 days in some of these places, so it's been coming down."
Gottlieb's comments came after an analysis of data from the COVID-19 Tracking Project showed 12 states posting record daily highs of new COVID-19 cases during the weekend, ABC News reported.
The list included Florida, Texas, Utah, South Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, Missouri, Montana, Arizona, California, Tennessee and Oklahoma.
In Florida, one of the first states to reopen its economy, Gov. Ron DeSantis originally blamed the rising numbers on increased testing, but on Saturday acknowledged that "even with the testing increasing or being flat, the number of people testing positive is accelerating faster than that."
He announced plans to crack down on social distancing practices in bars and nightclubs, which in many parts of the state reopened on June 5.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott is scheduled to address the public Monday afternoon after the state reported 10 consecutive days of record-high hospitalizations.
Abbott said last week Texas has an adequate supply of hospital beds to accommodate more COVID-19 patients, and like DeSantis, said the spike in numbers is attributable to stepped-up testing.
He also suggested young people are disregarding the dangers of transmission and are testing positive more frequently due to "people going to bar-type settings."