Federal report says all three Mid-South states are in COVID-19 ‘red zone’

Mid-South state on "red zone" report suggests Ark., Tenn., Miss., return to lockdown

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - An unpublished federal report suggests all three Mid-South states should go back to some sort of lock-down to fight increased transmission of COVID-19.

The Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C. first published the non-public report prepared for the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force this week.

The document said Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas are three of 18 states in the “red zone” in cases per capita. The report suggests restrictive measures for red zone states, similar to those enacted in March when the pandemic closures started.

“It’s different than it was in March,” said Dr. Jeff Warren, a member of the city-county COVID-19 task force. “What’s different is we now have testing. We know what we’ve got out there. In March, the only thing we could do was shut down until we could get our act together.

Tennessee does not have a masking mandate statewide, though Memphis and Shelby County do. Mississippi’s mask mandate applies to 13 counties in the state including DeSoto and Quitman.

Masking will be required in all Arkansas counties next week.

“We are beginning to see the effect of the masking,” said Warren. “And if everyone keeps doing it, and we do it religiously we’ll see the numbers go down.”

The Shelby County Health Department has closed bars and limited-service restaurants and is working on a set of “tripwire” guidelines with municipal mayors.

Those guidelines could trigger immediate restrictions if certain epidemiological standards with respect to the virus are met, like case counts. The “tripwire” policy was a recommendation of a federal team that came to the area two weeks ago.

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter indicated Thursday another large-scale shutdown like we saw this spring was unlikely.

“We have to determine how do we continue to move forward and balance the number of cases we have with opening businesses, and keeping businesses open, and getting children back to school,” said Haushalter.

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