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White House: Arizona back in coronavirus 'red zone'

Federal task force is raising alarm about hospital capacity & urging widespread testing

All but eight states are now in the red zone for COVID-19 cases, the White House coronavirus task force said in new reports issued Tuesday.

Arizona's Gov. Doug Ducey has signaled he won't impose any new restrictions in a state that saw more than 3,400 new infections and 28 additional deaths reported Tuesday.

The Dakotas and Wisconsin again this week led the nation in cases per capita, with Iowa claiming the fourth slot.

The reports, which are not made public by the Trump administration, are sent to governors weekly. The Center for Public Integrity is collecting and publishing them. President Donald Trump’s administration will be in charge of leading the federal response to the pandemic until Inauguration Day, through what many experts are already predicting will be a gruesome winter.

The new reports from the task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx, underlined that the coronavirus pandemic is not getting better, despite Trump’s insistence that the country is “rounding the turn.”

“There is continued, accelerating community spread across the top half of the country, where temperatures have cooled and Americans have moved indoors,” the task force wrote. “Also shown is continued, significant deterioration in the Sunbelt as mitigation efforts were decreased over the past 6 weeks, leading to the most diffuse spread experienced to date.”

The task force also issued its strongest endorsement yet of widespread, regular testing for the general population, even when individuals show no symptoms.

“All red and orange counties must begin proactive testing of 18-40 year-old community members,” the White House told New Mexico. “Requiring use only in symptomatic individuals is preventing adequate testing and control of the pandemic.”

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Gov. Ducey has indicated for weeks that he has no plans to impose additional restrictions as Arizona's tally of COVID-19 infections began to climb again. With more than 263,000 reported infections in the state since the beginning of the pandemic, 6,192 Arizonans have died from the disease.

Tuesday, the Republican governor didn't reference the White House inclusion of Arizona on the list of "red zone" states, but tweeted out a video in which he touted support for hospitals and the state's testing programs, while continuing to encourage wearing face coverings and social distancing.

"We will continue to take every action necessary to protect public health, while also recognizing that all our actions have impacts on peoples' lives in so many ways," he said.

"I know it's been a long year, and we all want to get back to normal. But that's not in the cards right now. Cases are spiking again across the country, and we need to keep our guard up," Ducey said. "There's hope on the horizon – the news of a successful vaccine is really positive – but until that's available, we need to rededicate ourselves to our best behaviors: Wear a mask; Maintain physical distancing; Wash your hands; Stay home when you're sick; and remember: gatherings with family and friends from outside of your household are no safer than going to the grocery store. ⁠Protect yourself and them by wearing a mask. I can't stress this enough. "

The task force reports contain little data about hospital capacity, but at least two of them this week contained notes of alarm. “Minnesota is seeing a continued dramatic rise in cases and test positivity that will continue to lead to increasing hospitalizations and deaths,” the task force wrote in one report. “New hospital admissions in New Mexico continue to rise and capacity is under continual threat,” it wrote in another.

Twenty states are now in the White House’s red zone for percentage of positive tests, meaning more than 10 percent of tests are coming back positive, and 27 are in the red zone for deaths, meaning they had more than two deaths per 100,000 residents in the past week.

Aside from its weekly reports, the White House task force has been mostly “dormant” and riven by personnel clashes, the Washington Post reported last month. Trump directly contradicted advice contained in the task force reports several times this fall by holding large campaign rallies in states with uncontained outbreaks. The transition team for President-elect Joe Biden has promised a national dashboard that would allow Americans to see data on the spread of the coronavirus by zip code.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment but has said in the past that it does not make the reports public because it wants states to lead the pandemic response.

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

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):

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  1. Montana
  2. Idaho
  3. South Dakota
  4. Iowa
  5. Kansas
  6. Nebraska
  7. North Dakota
  8. Missouri
  9. Utah
  10. Wisconsin
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Minnesota
  13. Nevada
  14. New Mexico
  15. Indiana
  16. Illinois
  17. Tennessee
  18. Texas
  19. Colorado
  20. Mississippi

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

TucsonSentinel.com’s Dylan Smith contributed Arizona reporting to this story.


Reprinted by permission of The Center for Public Integrity.

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