NEW YORK — Eighteen U.S. states should roll back reopening measures, according to an unpublished White House document obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom based in Washington, D.C.
According to the document, which was dated July 14, 18 states are in the “red zone” of coronavirus infections — which means that last week they reported more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population — and 11 states are in the “red zone” for positivity, which means that more than 10% of test results turned out to be positive.
In May, the World Health Organization advised governments that the positivity rate should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days, before reopening takes place.
The states that fall into the first “red zone” metric are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
States in the positivity “red zone” are: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas and Washington.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, the 359-page document reflects the Trump administration’s insistence in letting local and state governments to take the lead in the COVID-19 response.
It was prepared for the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, shared with the federal government, but it was never made public.
“The fact that it’s not public makes no sense to me,” Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told the nonprofit. “Why are we hiding this information from the American people? This should be published and updated every day.”
The report lays out specific recommendations for states that meet both “red zone” metrics — infections and positivity.
Guidelines include wearing masks “at all times outside the home and maintain physical distance;” limiting social gatherings to 10 people or fewer; and avoid going to “bars, nightclubs, or gyms.”
Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for Vice President Mike Pence, confirmed the authenticity of the document to CNN, saying that the report shows progress in the fight against COVID-19.
“As it stands in that report, there are only 10 states that fit that criteria. This is just one data point of many encouraging signs that we are seeing across the country as we continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic,” O’Malley said in a statement.
Sixteen states met the same criteria a few weeks ago, he noted.
At least one state that falls in the “red zone” in both categories has not been following the task force’s recommendations.
On Wednesday, the Republican governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, issued an executive order explicitly forbidding local municipalities to require residents to wear face masks.
As of Thursday, Georgia’s seven-day rolling average of new cases was 3,507 — four times more than its pre-shutdown peak in April, according to The San Antonio Express-News.
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