White House Coronavirus Task Force Calls for 'Significant Behaviour Change of All Americans'

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The White House coronavirus task force continues to sound the alarm on the spread of the pandemic across the country in weekly reports to states, focusing this week on mitigation efforts and calling for "significant behavior change of all Americans."

"There is aggressive, rapid, and expanding community spread across the country, reaching over 2,000 counties," said the set of reports, which were dated November 22 and obtained by CNN.

The reports compared mitigation strategies such as mask usage, social distancing and dining restrictions working in some parts of the country to Europe, but warned that efforts in some parts of the US are not having an impact.

"In states with aggressive mitigation, we are beginning to see the impact of that mitigation despite the cooling weather. We are also seeing stabilization in many European countries that implemented strong public and private mitigation, but preserved schooling. However, in many areas of the country, mitigation efforts are inadequate or too recently implemented to see a significant impact," the reports said.

Those mitigation strategies, the task force said, will require "significant behavior change of all Americans," including the wearing of masks.

More aggressive testing efforts, the task force said, "must be combined with significant behavior change of all Americans. Ensure masks at all times in public, increase physical distancing through significant reduction in capacity in public and private indoor spaces, and ensure every American understands the clear risks of ANY family or friend interactions outside of their immediate household indoors without masks."

The reports also offered this bleak assessment: "All states and all counties must flatten the curve to sustain the health system for both Covid and non-Covid emergencies."

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.

In states with rising cases, like Delaware, the task force recommended some 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 the usage of masks.

Days before the Thanksgiving holiday, the task force urged this messaging: "We need to protect those we are thankful for in our families and communities. Ensure indoor masking around vulnerable family members during any gatherings."

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 4 to 5 weeks, like in states that strongly mitigated during the summer surge," the Iowa report said.

The task force also raised questions about supply levels at Louisiana 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 Louisiana report said.

And the reports also encouraged states to make a plan for testing of 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.