NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — State and local officials on Monday urged southeastern Connecticut residents to get tested for COVID-19 and be careful around friends, family members and co-workers, noting the region's infection rate remains relatively high compared to the rest of the state.

“It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what age you are. We want you to come out and get tested," said state Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London. “We want to make sure that New London beats this."

Stephen Mansfield, director of health at the Ledge Light Health District, said more than 700 tests were conducted in New London over the weekend and will continue at various locations over the next two weeks. Free testing also began Monday in neighboring Groton. People don't need to have an appointment and don't have to exhibit any symptoms in order to get tested at these sites.

“We’re confident we have a good handle on this. The numbers aren’t going down yet. We expect they will. And testing is such an important part of getting those numbers down,” said Mansfield.

Southeastern Connecticut had a relatively low infection rate during the early months of the pandemic. But in recent weeks, there's been an uptick in cases. During the first week of September, there were 18 new positive cases for the communities overseen by the Ledge Light Health Health District. That number climbed to 181 during the week of Oct. 3-9, according to data posted online.

Cases have also climbed further north in the Norwich area, where the state has also helped with ramping up testing.

Dr. Deidre Gifford, the acting commissioner of the Department of Public Health, said contract tracers have found that people have become infected after taking off their masks in the car while carpooling, spending time with family members or in workplace lunch rooms. She urged anyone who tests positive or thinks they've been in contact with someone who has tested positive to quarantine 14 days.

“That’s how we’re going to break the cycle,” she said.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said he expects to sign a new executive order within the next day or two that will allow mayors and local first selectman to scale back the state's third phase of reopening measures, including larger capacities for indoor dining, if there's a local spike in cases.

“We're going to give them that discretion,” Lamont said.