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story.lead_photo.caption White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, speaks during a briefing with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, after meeting with the governor, Cabinet members, state health officials and community stakeholders at the Missouri Governor's Mansion in Jefferson City. Photo by Courtesy of Missouri Governor's Office

Document: White House Coronavirus Task Force Report Sept. 20, 2020


Jefferson City and Cole County have risen recently in the statewide rankings of metro areas and counties' new coronavirus case activity — surpassing the areas' more-populated neighbors to the north, according to the latest federal report tracking case activity.

The latest report of the White House Coronavirus Task Force — dated Sept. 20 — was obtained and published by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News.

In recent weeks, much of Mid-Missouri had moderate or high levels of community transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — including Jefferson City; Columbia; and Cole, Boone, Callaway, Camden, Miller, Morgan, Moniteau and Osage counties.

As recently as the task force report from Labor Day weekend, Jefferson City was fifth and Columbia second out of 12 metro areas designated as in a red zone of high case activity — with Cole County sixth, Boone County second, Camden County 14th and Miller County 20th out of then 38 counties in the red zone.

That report included blunt recommendations that "bars must be closed" and indoor dining areas must be restricted to 25 percent of normal capacity in red zone counties and metro areas.

The latest report, however, had somewhat softer recommendations and featured an "orange zone" designation for metro areas and counties that fell between red and yellow.

Jefferson City, however, had risen to be the red zone metro area with the third-highest number of new cases in the past three weeks out of 14 red zone metro areas.

Red zone designation was the result of having new cases at or above 101 per 100,000 population and a lab test positivity rate at or above 10.1 percent.

Columbia had fallen to second out of seven metro areas in the yellow zone — with St. Louis ahead of it and Kansas City, Lebanon and Marshall in the orange zone.

Yellow zone designation was the result of reporting 10-50 new cases per 100,000 population and a lab test positivity rate between 5-7.9 percent, or one of those two conditions and one condition that would qualify as being in orange or red.

An orange zone designation was the result of having new cases between 51-100 per 100,000 population and a lab test positivity rate of 8-10 percent, or one of those two conditions and one condition that would qualify as being in red.

Out of 52 counties designated in the red zone in the latest report, Cole County had the fifth-highest number of new cases over the past three weeks; Camden County, 11th; and Callaway County, 12th.

Miller County was 20th; Moniteau County, 36th; Osage County, 47th; and Maries County, 51st.

Gasconade County was ninth among 16 counties designated as in the orange zone.

Boone County was listed third among 17 counties in the yellow zone, and Morgan County was listed 12th.

Missouri was once again in the red zone as a state, with the fifth-highest new case rate in the country. The state also had the 10th-highest test positivity rate in the country — that rate being in the orange zone.

"Missouri has seen an increase in new cases and a decrease in test positivity over the last week," according to the report.

The number of new cases totaled 10,962 — a 23 percent increase from the week before.

The test positivity rate decreased to 8 percent — 1.6 percent less compared to the week before, but still approaching double the national rate of 4.4 percent.

Over the previous week, Missouri had 179 new cases per 100,000 population — more than double the national average of 86 per 100,000.

A greater share of Missouri counties also had high levels of community transmission, compared to the start of the month.

According to the Sept. 6 task force report, 67 percent of all Missouri counties had moderate or high rates of community transmission, with a third of the counties in the red zone.

This week, 74 percent of all counties in the state had moderate or high levels of community transmission — including yellow, orange and red zones — and 45 percent of counties had red zone levels of high community transmission.

"Spread is across rural and urban settings," the report notes.

The state's COVID-19 death rate was slightly lower than the national average — 1.3 per 100,000, compared to 1.7 per 100,000.

Looking at included maps of the United States in the White House task force report that compare the new case and lab test positivity rates between last week and the same week a month earlier, it's clear the pandemic has been easing across the Deep South and along the West and Gulf coasts and remained largely unchanged in the Northeast — but has accelerated across the Midwest and Great Plains.

What does all that data mean for daily life in Missouri, according to the task force's vision?

Instead of recommending to "require masks in metro areas and counties with COVID-19 cases among students or teachers in K-12 schools" — the task force's advice earlier this month for Missouri — the latest report states: "Ensuring mask utilization statewide will prevent unnecessary transmission and deaths in vulnerable communities."

Instead of "bars must be closed" and restaurants' indoor capacities "must be restricted," the latest report advises: "In areas with ongoing high levels of transmission (red and orange zones), use standard metrics to determine school learning options and capacity for bars and indoor dining. Expand outdoor dining options."

The latest recommendations also include:

- "Maintain community testing at July levels in order to effectively identify cases and rapidly intervene as transmission patterns continue to change."

- Conduct "rigorous" and "rapid" investigation and contact tracing of cases "with early isolation of known or suspected cases and quarantine of all contacts. Maintain a particular focus in cities or counties with elevated or increasing transmission and tourist areas. Use results from contact tracing to message to the community about current transmission trends and how citizens can protect themselves."

- "Dramatically" increase testing at universities to prevent spread from campuses to the surrounding communities. "Use positive incentives to encourage testing among students," monitor wastewater for track transmission levels, and do not send infected students back to their hometowns.

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