An unpublished White House document says 18 U.S. states are in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases and should mandate mask-wearing, the closing of gyms and limit social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.
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.
The recommendations include urging people in metro areas to cut travel outside the home to 25%, to close bars and gyms and to require people to wear a face covering in public.
In some of those states, those 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.
The Center for Public Integrity said the White House did not respond to a request for comment on the report, nor did it say how it obtained the report.