Coronavirus and Inequality

Published — November 24, 2020

As Thanksgiving looms, all but Hawaii and Maine in ‘red zone’ for COVID outbreak

A traveler gets his temperature checked while waiting in line to check in at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. About 1 million Americans a day packed airports and planes over the weekend even as coronavirus deaths surged across the U.S. and public health experts begged people to stay home and avoid big Thanksgiving gatherings. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

White House coronavirus task force warns of rapid spread in 48 states and D.C.


Vermont joined the 47 other states considered to be in the “red zone” for new coronavirus cases this week, according to the latest White House coronavirus task force reports to governors and senior state officials — a dangerous trend as many Americans prepare to gather with relatives for Thanksgiving. 

Hawaii and Maine are now the only two states outside of the red zone, seeing fewer than 101 new cases last week per 100,000 residents. Thirty-six states are in the red zone for new deaths per 100,000 residents. 

“There is aggressive, rapid, and expanding community spread across the country, reaching over 2,000 counties,” the White House task force told states Nov. 22. 

The White House reports are not made public, but the Center for Public Integrity is collecting and publishing them.

The task force recommendations include conducting antigen testing of people with no symptoms, wearing masks in public at all times, reducing capacity for “public and private indoor spaces” and educating people on the risks of any unmasked interactions indoors with those outside their household. 

That’s precisely the type of interaction that people visiting relatives for Thanksgiving will have this week.

“The silent community spread that precedes and continues to drive these surges can only be identified and interrupted through proactive, focused testing for both the identification of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals,” the White House said. “This must be combined with significant behavior change of all Americans.”

States with aggressive mitigation efforts are beginning to see an impact even as the weather cools, the task force said in its reports. “However, in many areas of the country, mitigation efforts are inadequate or too recently implemented to see a significant impact. All states and all counties must flatten the curve to sustain the health system for both COVID and non-COVID emergencies.”

A map from a Nov. 22 White House task force report shows the spread of COVID-19 cases across the country — a surge so large that the map uses three shades of red rather than one.

Maryland, for example, saw a 49% increase in its rate of new COVID-19 cases and a 53% increase in the rate of COVID-19 deaths from the previous week, according to the state’s report. 

“Maryland is showing alarming signs of a viral surge,” the task force said.

The states in the red zone for cases in this week’s report (meaning they had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents in the week prior), in order of severity:

1. North Dakota

2. Wyoming

3. South Dakota

4. Minnesota

5. Iowa

6. Nebraska

7. Montana

8. Wisconsin

9. Utah

10. New Mexico

11. Indiana

12. Kansas

13. Illinois

14. Rhode Island

15. Colorado

16. Alaska

17. Idaho

18. Missouri

19. Michigan

20. Oklahoma

21. Louisiana

22. Tennessee

23. Ohio

24. Kentucky

25. Nevada

26. Arkansas

27. West Virginia

28. Connecticut

29. Pennsylvania

30. Arizona

31. New Jersey

32. Delaware

33. Mississippi

34. Texas

35. Massachusetts

36. Maryland

37. Florida

38. Alabama

39. North Carolina

40. South Carolina

41. New Hampshire

42. California 

43. Washington

44. New York

45. Oregon

46. Virginia

47. Washington, D.C.

48. Georgia

49. Vermont

The states in the red zone for test positivity in this week’s report (meaning more than 10 percent of tests in the state were positive in the week prior):

1. Montana

2. Idaho

3. Iowa

4. Kansas

5. Missouri

6. Nebraska

7. Oklahoma

8. Utah

9. South Dakota

10. New Mexico

11. Indiana

12. Nevada

13. Tennessee

14. Minnesota

15. Wisconsin

16. Wyoming

17. Illinois

18. Michigan

19. North Dakota

20. Kentucky

21. Texas

22. Colorado

23. Ohio

24. Mississippi

25. Alabama

26. Pennsylvania

27. Arizona

28. South Carolina

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