Patrons leave a movie theater in St. Charles, Mo., on August 21. After being closed for months due to the pandemic, movie theaters nationwide reopened on that day. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 27 (UPI) -- After several days of fewer than 40,000 new COVID-19 cases nationwide, the number rose higher on Wednesday and deaths again topped 1,000, new data showed Thursday.
According to figures by Johns Hopkins University, there were 44,600 cases on Wednesday, the most since last Saturday. There were more than 1,200 new deaths, after a similar toll on Tuesday.
Wednesday capped the highest two-day toll in a week.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 5.822 million cases and 179,700 deaths in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins' Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday that controversial changes made to the agency's testing guidelines came at the request of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Wednesday, the CDC said it's no longer recommending tests for most people without symptoms, even if they have been exposed to the virus. The change drew objections from some health experts who say evidence has shown nearly 40% of new cases are being spread by asymptomatic carriers.
Redfield told CNN the change was "coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force" and had received "appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts."
He added that the change reflects a desire by the Trump administration to focus on testing those with symptoms and others like nursing home residents and infrastructure workers.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the change was made to politically benefit President Donald Trump, who's seeking re-election in November.
"The only plausible rationale is they want fewer people taking tests because, as the president has said, if we don't take tests you won't know that people are COVID positive and the number of COVID positive people will come down," Cuomo told reporters. "It fosters his failed policy of denial."
In North Carolina, officials ordered students at North Carolina State University in Raleigh to leave on-campus housing for 11 days, amid a rise in cases on campus.
Officials identified dozens of cases in and around the campus, including student housing, off-campus apartment complexes and the athletic department. More than 900 students are now in isolation or quarantine, Chancellor Randy Woodson said.
"We've seen far too much evidence of growth and spread of the virus in on-campus residential halls," Woodson told reporters. "It's clear that we're not going to be able to meet the required social distancing guidelines and be able to keep our students safe and healthy on campus."
In Mississippi, health officials reported 900 new cases Wednesday, one day after setting a single-day record for deaths.
Mississippi's seven-day average positivity test rate was 27.4% -- down from 33% the day before, but still the highest in the nation.