Coronavirus and Inequality

Published — October 20, 2020

Five more states in coronavirus ‘red zone,’ White House says. Total now at 31

Visitors wear face coverings while touring the Denver Zoo as cases of the new coronavirus spike in the state Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The task force reports, which the White House still doesn’t make public, say the nation as a whole is in the red zone for new cases.

Introduction

Thirty-one states are now in the “red zone” for new coronavirus cases, up from 26 last week, the White House Coronavirus Task Force said in new reports.

For the second week in a row, the Dakotas, Montana and Wisconsin were among the top five states for new cases per person in the White House’s tally. Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia joined the red zone in this week’s reports, which means they had more than 100 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

The nation on average saw 117 new cases for every 100,000 residents, the White House reported — putting the nation as a whole in the red zone for the first time since late July and early August, when cases peaked in the South.

The reports are sent weekly to governors, but the White House does not make them public and has rebuffed a demand from a House committee that it share the most recent reports with lawmakers. The Center for Public Integrity first revealed their existence earlier this year and continues to collect and publish them

At his campaign rallies, President Donald Trump does not follow the recommendations of the task force, which The Washington Post reported has been bogged down by infighting.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus on Tuesday slammed the Trump administration for continuing to downplay the spread of the virus even as the task force reports revealed a more dire picture, citing documents Public Integrity obtained and published.

“President Trump’s contempt for science and refusal to lead during this crisis have allowed the coronavirus to surge across the United States,” said Rep. James E. Clyburn, the Democratic chairman of the committee. “These reports—which the White House sent privately to governors but withheld from the public—show that President Trump’s false rhetoric on testing and masks is hindering our nation’s response.”

In the summer, the task force’s advice for residents of red zones was that they limit gatherings to 10 people or fewer, reduce “public interactions” to a quarter of their normal activity and avoid bars, gyms and indoor restaurant dining. 

The Oct. 18 reports from the White House Coronavirus Task Force included a ranking of states based on their rates of new cases per population. (Screenshot of report)

In more recent reports, the task force’s advice has grown less specific and less strict, even for places facing ongoing outbreaks. For example, Montana had the highest percentage of positive tests in the nation last week — nearly 20 percent — and one county with intensive care unit beds completely full, according to the White House. The task force did not recommend strict limits on gatherings, as it had in the summer, but instead directed the state to “make clear recommendations to avoid indoor gatherings wherever possible.”

Likewise, in this week’s Utah report, the task force said family gatherings were spreading the virus to nearly every corner of the state, landing it in the red zone for cases and test positivity, with both measures going up in the last week even though diagnostic testing slightly decreased. “Develop educational campaigns to educate residents and recommend avoidance of all such gatherings,” the task force suggested. “If gatherings cannot be avoided, urge use of face coverings and social distancing, especially in any indoor setting.”

The White House did not return a request for comment.

States in the red zone for new coronavirus cases in this week’s White House report (more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents):

  1. North Dakota
  2. South Dakota
  3. Montana
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Nebraska
  6. Utah
  7. Idaho
  8. Iowa
  9. Wyoming
  10. Missouri
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Arkansas
  13. Mississippi
  14. Alaska
  15. Indiana
  16. Tennessee
  17. Kansas
  18. Illinois
  19. Minnesota
  20. New Mexico
  21. Kentucky
  22. Alabama
  23. North Carolina
  24. Nevada
  25. Rhode Island
  26. South Carolina
  27. Colorado
  28. Michigan
  29. Texas
  30. West Virginia
  31. Ohio

States in the red zone for test positivity (more than 10% of diagnostic tests are positive):

  1. Montana
  2. Idaho
  3. Utah
  4. South Dakota
  5. Nebraska
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Missouri

States in the red zone for deaths (more than two deaths per 100,000 residents):

  1. North Dakota
  2. Arkansas
  3. South Dakota
  4. Kansas
  5. Florida
  6. Iowa
  7. Mississippi
  8. Alabama
  9. Montana
  10. Missouri
  11. Wisconsin
  12. Tennessee
  13. Rhode Island

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