DECEMBER 2, 2020
The White House coronavirus task force issued extremely dire warnings to states in weekly reports this week, urging public health officials to circumvent state and local policies amid record high cases, hospitalizations and deaths, as well as fears of a surge upon a surge following Thanksgiving.
“The COVID risk to all Americans is at a historic high,” say the reports dated November 29, which were shared with states and obtained by CNN. They provide figures from previous moments in the pandemic for comparison.
“The national daily COVID incidence after Memorial Day, but before the summer surge, was fewer than 25,000 new cases/day and is now more than 180,000 new cases/day; COVID inpatients then were fewer than 30,000 but are now more than 90,000; fatalities have more than doubled,” the report says, concluding, “We are in a very dangerous place due to the current, extremely high COVID baseline and limited hospital capacity; a further post-Thanksgiving surge will compromise COVID patient care, as well as medical care overall.”
In a dramatic escalation, the task force, which has frequently pleaded in weekly reports with state officials to enact tighter mitigation measures, including mask mandates and indoor dining restrictions, urged public health officials to take matters into their own hands.
“If state and local policies do not reflect the seriousness of the current situation, all public health officials must alert the state population directly,” the reports say.
The reports offered this advice to public health officials: “It must be made clear that if you are over 65 or have significant health conditions, you should not enter any indoor public spaces where anyone is unmasked due to the immediate risk to your health; you should have groceries and medications delivered.”
Additionally, the reports echoed comments from task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, who urged Americans who traveled to behave as though they have the virus.
“If you are under 40, you need to assume you became infected during the Thanksgiving period if you gathered beyond your immediate household. Most likely, you will not have symptoms; however, you are dangerous to others and you must isolate away from anyone at increased risk for severe disease and get tested immediately. If you are over 65 or have significant medical conditions and you gathered outside of your immediate household, you are at a significant risk for serious COVID infection; if you develop any symptoms, you must be tested immediately as the majority of therapeutics work best early in infection,” the reports say.
The task force points to “clear improvement” in European countries after those nations enacted “strong public and private mitigation but preserved schooling.”
But, the task force said, “In many areas of the USA, state mitigation efforts remain inadequate, resulting in sustained transmission or a very prolonged time to peak — over 7 weeks,” calling on all states and counties to “flatten the curve now in order to sustain the health system for both COVID and non-COVID emergencies.”