The 8 Things You Need to Do If You Live in a "Red Zone," White House Says

A leaked document from the White House includes a list of recommendations for people in "red zone" states.

A document created for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, but not shared with the broader public, was leaked on July 16, revealing the startling news that 18 states are currently considered coronavirus "red zones." As the report explains, red zones are states that have had 100 new COVID cases per 100,000 residents in the past week, indicating rapid rates of viral transmission. Right now, the red zone states are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

This report is "updated weekly, and sent to local governors," according to the Center for Public Integrity, which obtained and published the document. The report from the White House urges stringent restrictions in the red zone areas, from limiting time in public, to consistent mask-wearing. If you live in one of the aforementioned states, read on to see the full list of recommendations from the White House. And for more on staying safe from COVID-19, check out these 50 Essential COVID Safety Tips the CDC Wants You to Know.

"Wear a mask at all times outside the home."

Portrait of African American man out and about in the city streets during the day, wearing a face mask against the coronavirus.

The newly published White House document recommends that people in red zones wear masks at all times when in public. The White House document also says that public officials in red zones should "ensure that all business retailers and personal services require masks." Right now, that's only happening in 8 of the 18 red zone states. Masks are not mandatory statewide in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, or Utah. And for more on masks, find out why You Should Not Be Wearing One of These Instead of a Face Mask, CDC Warns.

"Maintain physical distance."

Two friends staying 6 feet apart

Maintaining a physical distance of six feet apart has long been recommended by medical and public health experts to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. According to the leaked document, the White House also wants officials in red zones to ensure all businesses "can safely social distance."

"Limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer."

Small group of friends hanging out in yard

Large gatherings have been the source of many coronavirus outbreaks, some of which have exposed hundreds of individuals at once. These superspreader events can be stopped by following this simple recommendation from the White House: Don't gather in groups of more than 10 people. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

"Do not go to bars, nightclubs, or gyms."

Man holding zoom happy hour with friends

Bars, nightclubs, and gyms are often ground zero for the spread of coronavirus. In fact, the White House document says public officials in red zones should "close bars and gyms" entirely. That's because crowding into indoor spaces with poor ventilation can turn these locations into coronavirus hotbeds. And for more on the danger of bars, check out Dr. Fauci Says These Places Across the U.S. Need to Shut Down ASAP.

"Use take out or eat outdoors socially distanced."

Woman preparing take out order

Sitting in a restaurant is the ultimate symbol of our return to normalcy, which makes it all the more tempting—but it simply won't be safe until the pandemic is under control. Instead, the White House document suggests ordering takeout or eating outdoors to enjoy a meal without the risk. The document also recommends officials in red zones "create outdoor dining opportunities with pedestrian areas" to ensure the safety of those in these hard-hit states.

"Protect anyone with serious medical conditions at home by social distancing at home."

Female doctor doing at home visit to a patient.

Certain groups are more susceptible to coronavirus complications, and it's essential that we protect those individuals from contracting coronavirus. This includes those with serious medical conditions, as well as the elderly—both of whom are far more likely to die as a result of the virus.

In regards to the latter, the White House document says public officials in red zones should "institute routine weekly testing of all workers in assisted living and long-term care facilities" and "require masks for all staff and prohibit visitors." And for more about who's at risk, check out At This Age, You're 11 Times More Likely to Die From COVID, Study Says.

"Use high levels of personal hygiene, including handwashing and cleaning surfaces."

Person washing hands with soap

If you live in a "red zone," your personal hygiene and disinfecting habits could make or break your safety, the White House document suggests. By washing your hands frequently for 20 seconds at a time, avoiding touching your face, and wiping down door knobs, for example, you can significantly lessen your chances of transmission.

"Reduce your public interactions and activities to 25 percent of your normal activity."

Family staying at home

By spending far less time in public spaces, you can greatly limit your chances of contracting or transmitting COVID-19, the leaked document says. In fact, the White House adds that officials in red zones should recommend a "shelter in place" for "individuals in all age groups with preexisting obesity, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus." Staying home is the simplest way to avoid the virus, especially if you live in a red zone state, where numbers are climbing.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more