Make masks mandatory before falling into the red zone

As the southern and southwestern states grapple with how to control the spread of the coronavirus, officials from President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force warned the nation’s governors on Tuesday that a new set of states is beginning to experience a rebound in positive cases and recommended that local leaders implement mask mandates and close bars to contain outbreaks.

Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the task force, said the positivity rate in states like Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Colorado was increasing and warned that they should act quickly before falling into what she described as the Category “red COVIDAS areas”. Birx defined red zones as those states with more than 100 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people and more than a 10 percent test positivity rate.

“By the time you see hospitalizations, the extent of your community is so vast that you have changed to an incredibly fast red state,” said Birx, according to a recording of the call obtained by The Daily Beast. “When you see it, up to 80 or 90 percent of your county already has a positivity rate of over 10 percent.”

The warnings from Birx and other task force officials come as the administration is pressing states across the country to reopen schools, a point that Vice President Mike Pence reiterated in the call.

Pence said the task force would support any decision state leaders make, but that the team was beginning to see evidence that “encouraging masks,” closing bars, and limiting internal meetings were holding back the spread in some of the critical states. Birx was more explicit with his advice, saying that “100 percent mask mandates” played an important role in containing the virus in those states.

Trump in the past has resisted wearing a mask and said in a Fox News interview this month that he would not impose a national mask mandate. On Monday, Trump retweeted a video shared by his son Donald Trump Jr. that featured a doctor saying the masks were unnecessary. Twitter restricted Donald Trump Jr.’s account and removed the video from the platform.