Eighteen U.S. states are in the “red zone” for the coronavirus outbreak and should look at implementing stronger mitigation measures, according to a White House document that runs counter to the Trump administration’s public statements in key areas.
The document, which was published Thursday by The Center for Public Integrity, was dated July 14. It is reportedly part of an update the White House coronavirus task force shares with governors each week.
The red zone states had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population last week. They are largely concentrated in the South and West and include: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.
The unpublicized document encouraged states to put into place “more stringent protective measures, limiting social gatherings to 10 people or fewer, closing bars and gyms and asking residents to wear masks at all times,” The Center for Public Integrity reported.
The document also names 11 states – also primarily in the South and West – that are in the red zone for their positivity rate, or the numbers of tests that come back positive compared to the total number of tests. The following states have more than 10 percent of their diagnostic test results coming back positive: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington.
But not all states are heeding the White House advice. For Georgia, which is on both lists, the document advises officials “mandate statewide wearing of cloth face coverings outside the home.” However, Gov. Brain Kemp this week signed an executive order voiding local mask mandates and filed a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over the city’s face covering requirement.
And in Florida, which is also on both lists, Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly said he will not reimplement shutdown measures or issue a statewide mask mandate.
The document is yet another example of mixed messaging from the Trump administration. President Donald Trump has urged states and schools to reopen and downplayed the recent resurgence of infections in the U.S.
“Now we’re open, and we want to stay open, and we will stay open. We’re not closing. We’ll put out the fires as they come out,” Trump said earlier this month.
The Trump administration has also delivered confusing stances on leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, who has steadfastly warned of the ongoing dangers posed by the pandemic.
Last weekend, a White House official released a statement to a handful of news outlets saying that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.” This week, Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro wrote a commentary in USA Today under the title: “Anthony Fauci has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.” The White House later attempted to distance itself from the op-ed, with a spokesperson saying it “didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone.”