A White Home doc reveals 18 states are within the coronavirus ‘pink zone,’ and will restrict gatherings, shut gyms, and masks up

President Trump and White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx unveil a plan to reopen the US following the first coronavirus surge.

Alex Brandon/AP

Eighteen US states are in “the red zone” for coronavirus cases, according to a White House document obtained by the Center for Public Integrity on Thursday.

That means these states have reported more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents in the last week.

The document, which had not been made public, recommended that “red zone” states mandate public use of masks, close bars and gyms, and limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer.

Here are all the states that fall into the “red zone.”

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It’s no secret that the US is up coronavirus creek without a paddle.

Cases have surged astronomically in the last month, and the corresponding uptick hospitalizations and deaths followed in hard-hit states like Arizona, California, and Texas. 

Some states, like California, have partially locked back down in an effort to curb new infections — Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down all indoor activities and bars in the state on Monday. But according to a White House document obtained by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) on Thursday, what California is doing isn’t enough.

California, along with 17 other states, is in “the red zone” for coronavirus cases, and should consider implementing stricter policies to prevent further spread, the document said.

Those policy recommendations include: mandating mask wearing at all times outside the home, limiting social gatherings to 10 people or fewer, and closing bars, nightclubs, and gyms.

However, the document — which was prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force on July 14 — hasn’t been made public anywhere until now.

“The fact that it’s not public makes no sense to me,” Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told CPI Thursday. “Why are we hiding this information from the American people? This should be published and updated every day.”

Which states are in ‘the red zone’ according to the White HouseMedical staff push a stretcher with a deceased patient out of the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on June 30, 2020 in Houston, Texas.

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The document listed that the following states reported more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents between July 7 and July 14, which classified them as being in “the red zone:”






North Carolina






South Carolina







Over the last week, the US has added an average of 62,200 new coronavirus cases per day to its already staggering infection total, which passed 3.5 million cases on Thursday. That tally was bumped up on Sunday by Florida, which reported the highest single-day coronavirus surge in a state ever recorded: 15,300 cases.

Most experts point to states’ premature reopenings as the source of this second surge of infections — 21 states loosened lockdown restrictions in May without White House criteria for resuming business operations and social activities.

Those guidelines said states should see either a two-week decline in cases or a two-week decline in the share of coronavirus tests coming back positive before they reopened. 

John Landin of Las Vegas celebrates after winning a hand of blackjack during the reopening of The D hotel-casino, in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, June 4, 2020.

Steve Marcus/Reuters

The White House document obtained by CPI also stipulated that 10 of those 18 “red zone” states, plus Washington, were also listed in the “red zone for test positivity” — meaning more than 10% of coronavirus tests in the state came back with positive results in the last week.

The ten states on both “red zone” lists are: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, and Texas.

Policy recommendations for states in the red zones

According to CPI, response coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force Dr. Deborah Birx may have referenced a version of the document in a press conference on July 8.

During the conference, she said the document was updated weekly, and the recommendations for how to curb community spread therein sent to state governors. 

Those recommendations include encouraging state residents to limit their gatherings to no more than 10 people and reduce their public interactions and activities to 25% of normal levels.

The document also recommended state officials mandate public use of masks, close bars and gyms, and create outdoor dining opportunities.

A sign reminding people to wear a face mask is displayed at Lake Pleasant on July 4, 2020 in Morristown, Arizona.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

But governors in some “red zone” states don’t seem to be following those suggestions.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order banning local mask mandates in the state on Wednesday.

“Any state, county, or municipal law, order, ordinance, rule, or regulation that requires persons to wear face coverings, masks, face shields, or any other Personal Protective Equipment while in places of public accommodation or on public property are suspended,” the order read.

Kemp’s order came a week after Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms mandated masks in Georgia’s largest city. Kemp is also suing the city over its mask mandate.

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