Brett Giroir, U.S. assistant secretary of health, warned Wednesday of local governments' "draconian measures" if the public do not take safety precautions seriously.
Giroir said in an interview on NBC's TODAY show that the nation is at "critical point" in the response to the pandemic, noting "we can still control the virus" by observing social distancing, wearing masks and being cautious about small indoor gatherings.
If Americans do not follow those measures, he warned, "it may force local officials or government officials in the states to have more draconian measures because cases will go up if we don't make a change."
The official refuted President Donald Trump's repeated claims that growing testing is the reason for surging cases, but rather the widespread infections. He also called on the country to bolster testing capacity to conduct more tests.
The United States averaged more than 71,000 cases per day over the past week, bringing the nationwide count to over 8,850,000, according to data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, urged efforts earlier this week to "stop the politicization of COVID-19."
"Where there has been political division at the national level; where there has been blatant disrespect for science and health professionals, confusion has spread and cases and deaths have mounted," he added.