By Chris Canipe and Lisa Shumaker
June 2 (Reuters) - Several southern U.S. states reported sharp increases in COVID-19 infections, with Alabama, South Carolina and Virginia all seeing new cases rise 35% or more in the week ended May 31 compared with the prior week, according to a Reuters analysis.
South Carolina health officials said they expected more increases in the future due to a lack of social distancing and mask wearing at protests triggered by the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota.
"If people don't follow current recommendations for social distancing and avoiding crowds of any kind, we can anticipate seeing increased numbers," the South Carolina health department said in a statement to Reuters.
South Carolina said the recent rise in its new cases, which have been going up for three weeks, were in part due to the completion of testing in the state's 194 nursing homes.
Alabama's health department attributed the state's steady increase in cases since early May to community transmission, clusters of outbreaks, and more testing.
Virginia officials were not immediately available for comment.
Nationally, new COVID-19 cases fell for a fifth straight week, down 4.7% last week compared with a 0.8% drop the prior week, according to the Reuters analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.
As all 50 states have partially reopened, cases are rising in 17 states compared with 20 in the prior week. (Open https://tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR in an external browser for a Reuters interactive)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended states wait for their daily number of new COVID-19 cases to fall for 14 days before easing social distancing restrictions.
Thirteen states have met the criteria for the week ended May 31, compared with 14 states and the District of Columbia the prior week, the analysis showed. Pennsylvania and New York lead with seven straight weeks of declines, and new cases are also falling in New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
(Reporting by Chris Canipe in Kansas City, Missouri, and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Editing by Tiffany Wu)
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