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Texas is a 'red zone state' and Travis County is one of the worst coronavirus hotspots, White House report says

Harris, Dallas and Bexar counties had the highest numbers, accounting for 35% of the total new cases in Texas in a three-week period, according to the report.

Texas should continue to mandate masks, keep bars closed, decrease indoor dining to 25% capacity and limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer in counties with rising COVID-19 positivity rates, a White House report obtained by the Center for Public Integrity shows. 

In an article published Thursday, the D.C.-nonprofit newsroom shared a "document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force but not publicized" that "suggests more than a dozen states should revert to more stringent protective measures." 

The report is dated July 14. 

It shows 18 states are currently in what the task force calls the "red zone" for cases, meaning there were more than 100 new COVID-19 cases for every 100,000 people in the state during the second week in July. 

Eleven states are in that same "red zone" for test positivity, the level a state reaches when higher than 10% of those getting tested are testing positive.

Texas is in both. 

Ten total states across the country are in both "red zones," mainly across the south:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • South Carolina
  • Texas

And the numbers are still rising in Texas, the report states. 

In the week before July 14, Texas was reporting nearly double the number of new cases compared to the national average, at 206 new cases to the U.S.'s 119 per 100,000 people. The state's positivity rate for the same week was 20.6%, according to the report.

Over the course of the three weeks before July 14, Harris, Dallas and Bexar counties had the highest number of new cases out of the state's 254 counties, with the three accounting for 35% of the total new cases in Texas, the report shows. 

"Red Zone" counties

Nearly half of Texas' counties are in both of the "red zones"—  123 out of Texas' 254. 

The top 12 counties in the "red zone," ranked by the highest number of cases in the past three weeks, were:

  1. Harris
  2. Dallas
  3. Bexar
  4. Travis
  5. Tarrant 
  6. Hidalgo
  7. Nueces
  8. El Paso
  9. Galveston
  10. Williamson
  11. Lubbock
  12. McLennan

County officials in the "red zone" should close gyms and keep bars closed, the report recommends. 

Gatherings should be limited to 10 people or fewer. Counties should also recruit more contract tracers and provide isolation facilities for people to leave their households if they need to do so to quarantine from others.

But on the same day the report was dated, July 14, the Tarrant County Commissioners denied the county health department's request to hire more contract tracers and nurses.

RELATED: Tarrant County Health Department denied request for additional contact tracers, nurses

The report also says people in "red zone" counties should use takeout or eat outdoors in a socially distant manner, and reduce their public interactions or activities to 25% of what they used to do.

"Yellow Zone" counties  

Eighty-two counties were in the "yellow zone" for the same figures, which means they had either between 10 and 100 new cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate between 5 to 10% or one of those factors along with one of the conditions for a "red zone."

Four-fifths of all of Texas' counties are in either the "red" or "yellow zone."

The top 12 counties in the "yellow zone" were:

  1. Collin
  2. Fort Bend
  3. Denton
  4. Montgomery
  5. Randall
  6. Potter
  7. Grayson
  8. Rockwall
  9. Henderson
  10. Hood
  11. Brewster
  12. Gonzales

The policy recommendations from the report for yellow counties were less stringent than those in the "red zone," but still more limiting than some of the current regulations in place across Texas. 

Officials in "yellow zone" counties should limit gyms to 25% capacity and keep bars closed until positivity rates are below 3%, according to the report. Social gatherings should be limited to 25 people or fewer. 

The report also says people in "yellow zone" counties should only go out to eat indoors when "strict social distancing can be maintained" and recommends they reduce their public interactions or activities to 50% of what they used to do before the pandemic began.

Like in "red zone" counties, officials should also recruit more contract tracers and provide isolation facilities for people to leave their households if they need to do so to quarantine from others. 

Testing

There was also a particular focus in the report's recommendations for both zones on testing— federal officials want to see community testing levels increase, along with access to testing, and for long-term care facilities to be required to perform weekly testing of all workers.

Organizations that are providing testing should also pool samples to increase testing access with a goal of reducing turnaround times to under 12 hours, the report states.

Officials also recommended expanding testing capacity and adding shifts at local labs to decrease turnaround times. 

To read the full report obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, click here.

_____

Nearly 4,000 people have died in Texas since COVID-19 tracking began in March, state officials reported Sunday, July 19. Reported cases have now reached more than 325,000 people in the state, with approximately 148,000 active cases. Hospitalizations have topped off over the past three days, at around 10,600 people who are currently hospitalized with the disease. 

More on COVID-19 in Texas:

 

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