The White House coronavirus task force’s weekly state reports released to states on Tuesday and obtained by CNN show maps of critically, startlingly high numbers of new cases in the center of the United States, with some relief on the East and West Coasts.
“We continue to see unrelenting, broad community spread in the Midwest, Upper Midwest and West. This will require aggressive mitigation to control both the silent, asymptomatic spread and symptomatic spread,” one state’s report said, calling for intensified mitigation measures, including masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds in public and smaller gatherings in private.
The changing weather is a major factor, the task force reports said, as “friends and families are moving social gatherings indoors, significantly increasing spread.”
North Dakota has the most new cases per 100,000 population this week. The states in the top 10 for new cases per 100,000 population are largely in the central and northern US: South Dakota, followed by Montana, Wisconsin, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, Tennessee and Iowa.
Thirty-two states are in the task force-defined “red zone” for cases, meaning more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population.
Vermont remains the state with the lowest number of cases per 100,000 population. The only other states in the “yellow zone” – between 10 and 50 new cases per 100,000 population – are Maine, Hawaii and New Hampshire, plus the District of Columbia.
As October 31 approaches, the task force also warned several states that there should be preparations to “ensure all residents are aware of the potential for viral spread during Halloween gatherings.”
The task force expressed concern with “early signs of deterioration in the Sunbelt” and “expanding community spread” in Alabama, New Mexico, Louisiana and Georgia amid decreasing mitigation efforts.
In Idaho, where cases are surging and there is still not a statewide mask mandate, the task force recommended “statewide policies for mitigation efforts,” to include limits on occupancy, use of face coverings and strict social distancing.
“While implementation might be difficult in certain areas of Idaho, issuance of clear statewide guidance will likely reduce transmission in many counties,” the report said.
In Arkansas and Nevada, the task force said a “different strategy” is needed. “What worked in the summer is not working in the fall with cooler weather and considering COVID fatigue.”
In Minnesota, the task force said, there has been an “upsurge in cases and relaxation of observance of mitigation measures” leading to more cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. “We share the concern of health and hospital officials that the situation will continue to worsen. The ability to limit further, avoidable increases in hospitalizations and deaths will depend on increased compliance with social distancing mitigation measures,” the state’s report said.
In Utah, the task force said the bar and gym hours should be limited and those businesses should “substantially reduce occupancy limits.”
In Delaware, the task force said, there has been “modest, gradual worsening over the last several weeks.”
In Pennsylvania, “Transmission is increasing.”
In Tennessee and Missouri, “mitigation efforts must be increased,” including mask wearing.
In Wyoming, the task force warned, “other states have managed to greatly curtail transmission through high level testing and strict mitigation efforts. Given the current extent of transmission, Wyoming should continue to expand testing and enact stronger mitigation policies, including limit hours of bars, theaters, and gyms substantially reduce occupancy limits in all indoor restaurants and commercial settings and monitor and enforce use of face coverings in all public indoor spaces.”