WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nexstar) — An unpublished document prepared for the White House coronavirus task force recommends that 18 states — including Texas — in the coronavirus “red zone” for cases should roll back reopening measures amid surging cases.
The “red zone” is defined as “those core-based statistical areas (CBSAs) and counties that during the last week reported both new cases above 100 per 100,000 population and a diagnostic test positivity result above 10%.”
The report, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom, outlines specific measures for counties in the red zone. It encourages residents to “wear a mask at all times outside the home and maintain physical distance.” It also recommends officials “close bars and gyms” and “limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer,” which would mean rolling back reopening provisions in these places.
The report comes amid President Donald Trump’s insistence that states reopen and as some in the administration push to send the nation’s children back to school as cases increase.
The following 18 states are in the red zone for new cases: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
The report says the following 11 states are in the red zone for test positivity: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Washington. These states are also in the red zone for cases, with the exception of Washington state.
Georgia, one of the states in the red zone for both cases and test positivity, is battling its largest city over masks. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp filed a lawsuit over Atlanta’s Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ mandate on masks in the city Thursday. He said it violated his emergency orders prohibiting local leaders from adding to the state’s COVID-19 requirements.
The task force report specifically recommends that Georgia “mandate statewide wearing of cloth face coverings outside the home.”
Devin O’Malley, spokesman for Vice President Mike Pence and the task force, told CNN the report showed “encouraging signs” amid the pandemic.
“When the vice president held a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at HHS a few weeks ago, he reported that 16 states met the criteria for rising cases and rising positivity rate. As it stands in that report, there are only 10 states that fit that criteria. This is just one data point of many encouraging signs that we are seeing across the country as we continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic,” O’Malley said in a statement.