Coronavirus and Inequality

Published — December 2, 2020

White House coronavirus task force: ‘We are in a very dangerous place’

In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, EMT Giselle Dorgalli, second from right, looks at a monitor while performing chest compression on a patient who tested positive for coronavirus in the emergency room at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Post-Thanksgiving cases could put hospitals over the edge, task force warns.


The White House Coronavirus Task Force warned governors in private reports this week that “the COVID risk to all Americans is at a historic high” and said virus-mitigation efforts in many states are still not strong enough.

“We are in a very dangerous place due to the current, extremely high COVID baseline and limited hospital capacity,” the new reports, dated Nov. 29, read. “A further post-Thanksgiving surge will compromise COVID patient care, as well as medical care overall.”

The task force also issued some of its strongest warnings yet to individual Americans, even though the reports to governors are not made public. It said anyone over age 65 should not enter indoor public spaces with unmasked people and should have groceries and medications delivered. It also said that people under 40 who gathered with others outside their households for Thanksgiving should assume they became infected, isolate themselves and be tested immediately. “You are dangerous to others,” the task force said.

Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia were in the red zone for new cases in this week’s report — one fewer than the week prior — meaning they had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents. But 39 states were in the White House’s red zone for deaths — three more than the prior week — meaning they had more than two new deaths per 100,000 residents. North and South Dakota again led the nation in both cases and deaths per capita.

“In many areas of the USA, state mitigation efforts remain inadequate, resulting in sustained transmission,” the task force said. “All states and counties must flatten the curve now.”

The White House has said it does not share the reports publicly because it wants states to lead the pandemic response. The Center for Public Integrity is collecting and publishing the documents. Last week it exclusively obtained the 50-state version of the Nov. 22 reports, revealing that the White House was taking tough stances with many states that refuse to share their reports, including Indiana and South Dakota.

The Nov. 29 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)

“Improved public observance of social distancing measures is urgently needed to limit overrunning of hospital capacity,” the White House told officials in Indiana. “The Governor’s active engagement and support of mitigation measures are critical.”

The White House reports this week again urged states to do more rapid testing. The task force also urged seniors to get tested immediately if they gathered with others for Thanksgiving and start experiencing symptoms: “If you are over 65 or have significant medical conditions and you gathered outside of your immediate household, you are at a significant risk for serious COVID infection; if you develop any symptoms, you must be tested immediately as the majority of therapeutics work best early in infection,” the reports read.

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):

  1. North Dakota
  2. South Dakota
  3. Wyoming
  4. New Mexico
  5. Minnesota
  6. Iowa
  7. Nebraska
  8. Indiana
  9. Kansas
  10. Montana
  11. Utah 
  12. Wisconsin
  13. Alaska
  14. Colorado
  15. Rhode Island
  16. Illinois
  17. Ohio
  18. Nevada
  19. Oklahoma
  20. Michigan
  21. Idaho
  22. Missouri
  23. Kentucky
  24. Arkansas
  25. Pennsylvania
  26. Arizona
  27. Tennessee
  28. West Virginia
  29. Delaware
  30. New Jersey
  31. Connecticut
  32. Louisiana
  33. Mississippi
  34. Massachusetts
  35. Maryland
  36. Florida
  37. Washington
  38. Texas
  39. California
  40. North Carolina
  41. New York
  42. Alabama
  43. Oregon
  44. Virginia
  45. South Carolina
  46. New Hampshire
  47. District of Columbia
  48. Georgia

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. Idaho
  2. Montana
  3. Kansas
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Missouri
  6. Utah
  7. Iowa
  8. Nebraska
  9. Nevada
  10. Indiana
  11. New Mexico
  12. South Dakota
  13. Ohio
  14. Wyoming
  15. Michigan
  16. Kentucky
  17. Tennessee
  18. North Dakota
  19. Alabama
  20. Mississippi
  21. Illinois
  22. Minnesota
  23. Wisconsin
  24. Pennsylvania
  25. Arizona
  26. Colorado
  27. Texas

The states in the red zone for deaths (meaning they had more than more than two new deaths per 100,000 residents in the week prior):

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

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