Multiple state reports dated November 22 and obtained by CNN show a critical assessment from the task force at a time when it says Americans must undertake “significant behavior change,” urging state and local officials to take proactive steps toward those ends.
North Dakota is yet again the state with the highest number of new cases per 100,000 population since at least mid-October, followed by Wyoming, then South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Montana, Wisconsin, Utah and New Mexico in the top 10.
However, the task force offered good news to North Dakota, which it said is “showing signs of early stabilization with a plateauing of cases and stabilization of hospitalizations at a high level.”
“This is the moment to further accelerate mitigation requirements to drive down the pandemic,” the report said, calling for more aggressive testing as well.
There is still not a statewide mask mandate in North Dakota.
But the reports shared bleaker assessments for many other states.
Wisconsin, the task force said, “continues to see extraordinarily high rates of cases and test positivity in an ongoing health emergency,” noting that hospitalizations and deaths “are several-fold greater than the spring or summer peaks.” The report commended additional measures from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and suggested “restricting indoor dining and limiting or closing areas of congregation without masking.”
“At this point, the rapid increases in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths throughout the state support the importance of taking additional steps. These increased mitigation measures are a short-term sacrifice to protect the vulnerable,” the report said.
Maryland, the task force report said, “is showing alarming signs of a viral surge.”
“We share the strong concern of Maryland’s leaders that the current situation is critical and that improved observance of social distancing measures is urgently needed to limit overrunning of hospital capacity and additional preventable deaths. The Governor’s active measures are critical and are commended,” the Maryland report said.
In Ohio, the task force suggested, the state “needs to continue its aggressive mitigation efforts and potentially expand the depth and breadth of interventions to further drive down this surge.”
There was bad news for Georgia, which the task force said is “in the early stages of full resurgence.”
“This is the moment to dramatically increase mitigation,” the Georgia report said.
Minnesota, the task force said, “is seeing a continued dramatic rise in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, all of which are at their highest points ever in the pandemic,” calling for “observance of intensified mitigation measures.”
In multiple states with rising cases, including Minnesota, Washington, Vermont and Delaware, the task force recommended some short-term interventions, including “restricting indoor dining and limiting or closing areas of congregation without masking.” But, the reports said, those measures “had limited success in preventing spread at private gatherings,” calling for reinforced messaging about social gatherings, including avoiding large groups and using masks.
The task force shared this dire prediction for Connecticut: “Connecticut continues to see rapid rises in cases, test positivity, and hospitalizations that will lead to increasing deaths.”
The report for Pennsylvania expressed concern about hospital shortages.
“The continued increase in transmission remains concerning, especially given local hospital shortages and further increases anticipated over the upcoming holidays. Recent restrictions are warranted and commendable,” the Pennsylvania report said.
The task force praised Iowa this week after Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds instituted some masking policy.
“Encouraged by the steps the governor is taking to decrease transmission; this is the first week where the rise in cases is less than previous weeks. Covid-related hospitalizations will continue in the coming weeks; however, with increased strong mitigation, cases could decline to the yellow zone within four to five weeks, like in states that strongly mitigated during the summer surge,” the Iowa report said.
The task force raised questions about supply levels at Louisiana and Ohio hospitals.
“There are early signs of reduced N95, gown, and glove supply in specific hospitals’ reporting. Please contact all hospitals reporting less than one week’s supply to confirm data; contact the regional FEMA office for support if this supply issue is confirmed,” the reports said.
Days before the Thanksgiving holiday, the task force urged this messaging in multiple reports: “We need to protect those we are thankful for in our families and communities. Ensure indoor masking around vulnerable family members during any gatherings.”
And multiple reports encouraged states to make plans for testing university students.
“Ensure all universities returning in the winter move to mandatory weekly testing of all on and off campus students. Planning for that must begin now,” reports said.