17 States are in the "Red Zone" for COVID Deaths

Alek Korab

New data from President Donald Trump's own White House, sent to governors but not made public, shows that he was wrong on Monday when he claimed in a tweet that coronavirus cases are rising because of increased testing.

In fact, the White House Coronavirus Task Force reports show that testing was slightly down nationwide over the last week, while the number of cases and the percentage of positive tests were up. The reports, dated Sunday, were sent to governors Tuesday evening. (This article was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom based in based in Washington, D.C.) Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Cases—and Deaths—Will Continue to Rise Nationwide

The nation conducted roughly 6.7 million tests last week, compared to 7.1 million the week before, according to estimates from the federal Department of Health and Human Services contained in the White House reports. Yet test positivity rose nationwide, as did the number of new cases, as the Upper Midwest and mountain states led the nation to a third peak in the pandemic.

"You cannot say that you're detecting more cases because you're doing more testing if you're doing less testing," said Harvard epidemiologist Bill Hanage. "You should not respond to a clear and present threat by putting your fingers in your ears, shutting your eyes and going, 'La la la.'"

Thirty-two states are now in the red zone for coronavirus cases, the White House said in the new reports — one more than in last week's reports. Florida was the addition. It is likely the most states in the red zone ever, but that's unclear because the public has not been able to gain access to the report for one week in September.

Seventeen states are in the red zone for deaths, four more than last week, according to the White House. A dozen states are in the red zone for percentage of positive tests, four more than last week.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force report of states based on their rates of new cases per population
The White House Coronavirus Task Force report of states based on their rates of new cases per population

The White House task force continued to offer less specific and less strict recommendations to states than in the reports it issued during the summer, even as it outlined the grave situation some places face.

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"Efforts Must Intensify," Says Task Force

The Oct. 25 reports from the White House Coronavirus Task Force included a ranking of states based on their rates of new cases per population.

"Efforts must intensify," the task force told North Dakota, which leads the nation in cases and deaths per capita and where 13 percent of nursing homes had at least one resident die from COVID-19 in the past week. "Both North and South Dakota have the highest percent of the population infected … and with the missed silent infections, 20% of the population may have been infected."

The task force repeated its warnings that family gatherings were driving the spread of the virus and urged citizens to avoid Halloween and Thanksgiving get-togethers, or at least wear masks when indoors with people outside their households.

"In advance of the holidays, develop educational campaigns across all media platforms (including SMS) to educate residents and recommend avoidance of all such gatherings, especially for older individuals and those at risk for severe disease," the White House advised Utah.

The task force reports obtained so far by the Center for Public Integrity this week said little about the risks of hospitals being overwhelmed, even as reports emerge from Idaho, Texas, Utah and other states that some places are running out of hospital beds due to a surge of coronavirus patients.

The White House does not publish the task force's state reports. Public Integrity now collects them from states and publishes them weekly, though some governors refuse to share them.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

About the author: Liz Essley Whyte, is a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity's money and democracy team.