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These 13 States Need to Shut Down Now, Say Harvard Experts

Some of the nation's top experts support a complete coronavirus shutdown of several “red zone” states. 

As coronavirus cases, infection rates, hospitalizations and even deaths continue to surge across the country, 21 states are currently in the "red zone" according to a new report by the Trump administration's coronavirus task force. While they are recommending tightening up their response, a group of the nation's top researchers, policy and public health experts from Harvard University's Global Health Institute and Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, the majority of them are in such a dire state, they should shut down completely. Read on to find out which ones.



Skyline from Miami as seen from Watson Island

48.1 new daily cases per 100,000 people

For three days straight, Florida has broken their single-day death toll records, reporting 253 new coronavirus related fatalities on Thursday—rising from 186 on Tuesday and 216 on Wednesday. Additionally, they added 9,943 cases to their total, which is now over 460,000 cases across the state, and over 26,000 hospitalizations.



French Quarter architecture in New Orleans, Louisiana

46.2 new daily cases per 100,000 people

On Thursday Gov. John Bel Edwards announced some grim news: Louisiana is currently leading the nation in highest number of Covid-19 cases per capita—surpassing Arizona, Florida, and New York. They reported 1,769 new Covid-19 cases (for a total of 114,000), and 69 deaths—the most lives lost in a 24-hour period in two and a half months.



Mississippi welcome sign with the words "Birthplace of America's Music"

43.5 new daily cases per 100,000 people

On Thursday, The Mississippi Department of Health reported 48 new coronavirus deaths and 1,775 new cases Thursday, marking the third day this week of more than 1,000 cases—as well as a new record-high number of COVID-19 cases in the state. The state's total is now up to 57,579 cases and 1,611 deaths. On six out of seven days last week the state reported more than 1,000 confirmed cases. 



Statue of Hank Williams, the famous country singer, in its new location on Commerce Street

39.1 new daily cases per 100,000 people

Cases of coronavirus continue to climb daily in Alabama, according to their Department of Public Health. On Wednesday they reported 1,263 cases, jumping up to 1,923 new positives on Thursday. In total the state has reported 83,495 confirmed cases. On Wednesday Gov. Kay Ivey extended a statewide mask order for four weeks until August 31. "These decisions are not easy, and they're certainly not fun," Ivey said at a press conference on Wednesday. "There's no way in the world you ever can make everyone happy 100 percent of the time. But one thing is for sure. Tough decisions are a lot easier to make when you're on the sidelines than when you are actually in the arena."



Phoenix Arizona with its downtown lit by the last rays of sun at the dusk.

36.6 new daily cases per 100,000 people

On Thursday,  Arizona reported 2,525 new Covid-19 cases and 172 new deaths. However, according to Gov. Doug Ducey, the state has been on a downward trend in Covid-19 cases since early July, reporting an average of 2,533 new Covid-19 cases per day and a positivity rate of 11% last week, compared to 5,439 new Covid-19 cases on June 29. "We are headed in the right direction," Ducey said, adding that hospitalizations and ventilator use are also trending down.



Neon signs on Lower Broadway Area on November 11, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee, USA

34.1 new daily cases per 100,000 people

On Wednesday Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that Tennessee, currently seeing 2,391 cases per day, is one of three states where a major coronavirus outbreak is inevitable, due to increasing positivity rates. "That's a surefire sign that you've got to be really careful," Fauci told Good Morning America.




33.8 new daily cases per 100,000 people

Georgia has been setting major records—and not the good kind—in their battle against coronavirus. According to The Georgia Department of Public Health 4,045 new cases of Covid-19 were reported on Thursday, bringing the statewide total to approximately 182,286 cases.  Hospitalizations are also peaking. 3,200 people are currently hospitalized, with 87% critical care beds full in the state. 



Sunrise at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

33.0 new daily cases per 100,000 people

Nevada's coronavirus crisis continues to worsen. On Thursday they recorded 1,018 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 more fatalities over the preceding day. According to The Department of Health and Human Services the state's total cases of coronavirus is now at 46,824. As for their infection rate it has been climbing for 22 consecutive days, reaching 10.12 percent.


South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina, USA at the historic homes on The Battery.

30.1 new daily cases per 100,000 people

On Wednesday, The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 1,666 new confirmed coronavirus as well as 48 additional confirmed deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 85,423 and confirmed deaths to 1,551. The previous day they reported a positivity rate of 19.9%.



House with Texas flag on the lawn

27.9 new daily cases per 100,000 people

Texas has been hard hit by coronavirus, and if the state continues to ease up restrictions, the state will experience an estimated 25,962 by November 1, according to University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). However, if the state introduces a mask mandate, the figure could fall to 16,476.

RELATED: Dr. Fauci's 10 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus




27.5 new daily cases per 100,000 people

Idaho's coronavirus testing positivity percentage decreased for the second straight week, but it is still far higher than health experts would like to see. For the week of July 19-25, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported 17,746 COVID-19 tests conducted with a positivity percentage of 13.2%.



Little Rock, Arkansas

26.4 new daily cases per 100,000 people

On Thursday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced 791 new cases and eight additional deaths, bringing the total to 6580 cases and 442 deaths. "500 communities have active COVID disease," according to Joseph Thompson, President & CEO of Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI).



25.6 new daily cases per 100,000 people

On Thursday the number of new COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma was up 3.2% from the previous day with a single-day increase of 1,117, also reporting 13 deaths. Oklahoma, who has experienced a major surge of cases, has been accused by Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, of ignoring multiple recommendations regarding public health to stop the spread of COVID-19. 


'The Public Needs Clear…Information'

older woman looking at laptop

According to Harvard experts, the task force's recommendations are too weak to control the highly infectious virus. "The public needs clear and consistent information about COVID risk levels in different jurisdictions for personal decision-making, and policy-makers need clear and consistent visibility that permits differentiating policy across jurisdictions," Danielle Allen, director of Harvard's Safra Center, explained. "We also collectively need to keep focused on what should be our main target: a path to near zero case incidence."

Both Harvard and the task force bases their risk levels on one key metric: the seven-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. However, Harvard has four risk levels while the task force only has three. And to make it onto Harvard's red "team" requires a much higher case per 100,000 people rate—an average of over 25 per day compared to just 14.3. 


How to Stay Healthy Where You Are

Woman at home wearing face mask.

And, while those in Trump's "red zone" are instructed to "wear a mask at all times outside the home and maintain physical distance" and "reduce your public interactions and activities to 25 percent of your normal activity" and public officials instructed to "close bars and gyms and create outdoor dining opportunities with pedestrian areas," "limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer" and "ensure that all business retailers and personal services require masks and can safely social distance," Harvard is much more strict with their recommendations: stay at home. 

And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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