WASHINGTON — An unpublished White House document says 18 states are in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases and should mandate mask-wearing, the closing of gyms and limit social gatherings.
The document, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom based in Washington, D.C., and published on Thursday, shows that the 18 states are reporting more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents tested in the past week.
Those states, the document warns, should consider employing stricter policies to try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The 18 states mentioned in the document dated Tuesday included in the red zone for COVID-19 cases are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
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“It’s not necessarily good news for North Carolina,” said Liz Essley Whyte, reporter for The Center for Public Integrity.
Whyte broke the story about the document.
“It will be interesting to see if governors and local officials heed the White House’s advice,” she said.
Eleven states are in the “red zone” for test positivity, meaning more than 10% of the diagnostic test conducted in the last week came back positive.
Those states are Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas and Washington.
The World Health Organization recommended in May that test positivity rates be at 5% or lower for 14 days before reopening.
The document was prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Wednesday. It had not been released to the public as of Friday morning.
"The fact that it's not public makes no sense to me," Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told the Center for Public Integrity on Thursday. "Why are we hiding this information from the American people? This should be published and updated every day."
The document includes county-level data and has been shared within the federal government, the Center for Public Integrity reported but does not appear to be posted publicly.
The report issues recommendations for the states where an increase in cases has been confirmed and where the number of tests that come back positive is on the rise.
White House Taskforce recommendations for North Carolina:
- Red zone for cases, almost red zone for percent positives
- Keep bars and gyms closed
- 25% capacity for restaurants
- Public gatherings of no more than 10 people
- Pooled testing
White House Taskforce recommendations for South Carolina
- Red zone for cases and percent positives
- Close bars and gyms
- Limit gatherings to 10 people
- Require masks
“Everybody lives in their own place and has their own risk perception,” Whyte said. “What I think is most important is that people need information to make good decisions. They need to know what the real information is around them in order to decide whether to go visit their grandparents or take the vacation or whatever.
In Mecklenburg County, officials will restrict restaurants from serving alcohol after 10 p.m. as early next week
The county manager said there isn't much appetite now for another shutdown or stay-at-home order.
Some residents said they would not be surprised if there is another shutdown.
“I hope we do make people stay home,” resident Kylieah Rucker said. “Given the opportunity to come out, they are going to come out.”
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said it is glad the state is doing many of the things the report suggests like keeping bars and gyms closed and requiring masks.
They said they are seeking more federal funding for testing sites and supplies.
In some states, recommendations are not being heeded.
In Georgia, the Center for Public Integrity points out, the report suggests that officials “mandate statewide wearing of cloth face coverings outside the home.”
On Wednesday, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an order banning localities from requiring masks. Georgia is in the red zone for both cases and test positivity.
The state reported 4,484 cases of COVID-19 on July 10. Since the pandemic began, Georgia has seen 121,000 confirmed cases with Gwinnett County reporting 12,489 confirmed cases and 191 deaths. More than 3,100 people in Georgia have died from the virus.
Florida has been setting records in confirmed cases with 15,300 reported on July 12 alone. There have been 316,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 4,676 deaths attributed to the virus. Miami-Dade County has been the hardest hit with more than 75,000 confirmed cases.
Florida does not have a statewide face-covering mandate.
Alabama Gov. Kaye Ivey issued a face-covering mandate Wednesday after having recently said she wouldn’t do so.
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