These Are the 11 States With "Deeply Concerning" COVID Numbers

The positive test rates in these states are cause for alarm, the former FDA commissioner warns.

In many places across the U.S., the overall feeling seems to be that the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. The number of new cases, deaths, and hospitalizations have been improving nationwide, and many of the hardest-hit areas have long since turned a corner and largely contained their outbreaks. But there are still plenty of alarming numbers in several states. In fact, the positive test rates in at least 11 states could merit immediate intervention.

In a Sept. 20 appearance on CBS News' Face the Nation, Scott Gottlieb, MD, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said, "If you look at what's happening around the country right now, there's an unmistakable spike in new infections." He drew specific attention to the positive test rates. "There's about 15 states where the positivity rate is 10 percent or higher, which is deeply concerning," Gottlieb continued.

We're not quite there yet, at least not according to the most recent numbers aggregated by Covid Act Now, but Gottlieb is not far off. As of Sept. 21, there are 11 states with positive test rates that are 10 percent or higher. Read on to find out which states should be the most worried. And for states where the outbreak is picking up, These 4 States Just Had Their Biggest COVID Spikes of the Whole Pandemic.


Downtown Omaha skyline with the Gene Leahy Mall in the foreground

Last week, Nebraska was identified as a state where COVID cases are skyrocketing, and the situation has yet to improve. Currently, Nebraska has a positive test rate of 11.2 percent, clearing the cut-off for "deeply concerning," per Gottlieb's assessment. The state also has a high infection rate (1.12) and a high daily new case rate (19.9 cases per 100,000 people). The New York Times reports that there have been nearly 2,900 new cases over the past seven days, giving the state a total of more than 41,080 coronavirus cases. And for the other states with a troubling rise in new cases, here are 7 States Where COVID Cases Are Skyrocketing.


St. Louis, Missouri

With a positive test rate of 11.6 percent, Missouri could be in trouble. And that's not the only worrying number provided by Covid Act Now. The state is now seeing 24.9 daily new cases per 100,000 people, which represents a "very large number of new cases." According to the Harvard Global Health Institute, states that have 25 or more daily new cases per 100,000 people are at the "red" risk level. "Once a community reaches the red risk level, stay-at-home orders become necessary again," they say. There have been close to 10,385 new COVID cases in Missouri over the last week, resulting in almost 114,830 cases to date. And for states in the red, These 4 States Should Lock Down Right Away, Harvard Researchers Say.


miami florida skyline

At one point, Florida was considered the epicenter of the COVID crisis in the U.S., but it had been moving in the right direction, alongside other hotspot states like Arizona and Texas. Florida may be backsliding, however, given its current positive test rate of 11.8 percent. The state is also experiencing a high daily new case rate of 13.1 cases per 100,000 people. Just over the last seven days, Florida has seen an additional 19,760 new coronavirus cases. There have been almost 683,750 cases in the state thus far.


birmingham alabama

Recently identified as one of the White House Coronavirus Task Force's "red zone" states, Alabama now has a positive test rate of 14.1 percent, according to Covid Act Now. And like the other states on this list, Alabama also has a high daily new case rate: 19.0 cases per 100,000 people. While the infection rate of 0.94 indicates that COVID is spreading slowly, the state saw more than 6,200 new coronavirus cases over the last seven days, and has had more than 144,960 cases overall.


salt lake city utah from above

Utah has had its share of ups and downs throughout the pandemic, and at the moment, it should be on high alert. The positive test rate in Utah is now tied with Alabama's at 14.1 percent. The state also has a high infection rate of 1.25 and a very high daily new case rate of 25.0 cases per 100,000 people, which puts it in the red on the HGHI map. There have been 5,880 new COVID cases in Utah over the past week, according to The New York Times, giving the state a total of over 63,770 cases. And for another state in trouble, This Surprising State Just Saw More COVID Deaths Than It Has Since May.


topeka kansas state capitol buildings

Per Covid Act Now, Kansas' positive test rate has reached 15.1 percent, which is cause for alarm. And despite the moderate infection rate of 0.98, the state's 19.7 daily new cases per 100,000 people is also concerning. Over the last seven days, there have been more than 4,010 new coronavirus cases in Kansas, resulting in around 53,420 cases to date.



Covid Act Now puts Iowa in the "critical" category, thanks to a daily new case rate of 25.3 cases per 100,000 people, a "dangerous number of new cases." But the positive test rate of 15.3 percent is reason enough for the state to take action when it comes to COVID containment. Iowa has seen an additional 5,735 coronavirus cases in the last week, contributing to its overall case number of 80,410. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

South Dakota

rapid city, south dakota

South Dakota has received plenty of attention in recent weeks, thanks to the state's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which proved to be a superspreader event. As of Sept. 21, South Dakota has a positive test rate of 15.9 percent, not to mention a critically high daily new case rate of 32.4 cases per 100,000 people. The last week has added nearly 2,060 COVID cases to South Dakota's total, which is now almost 18,700.


The skyline of downtown Boise, Idaho at twilight

With a positive test rate of 16.0 percent, according to Covid Act Now, Idaho is just slightly above South Dakota. The state is seeing much fewer new cases per capita, with a current daily new case rate of 16.3 cases per 100,000 people, but that number is still too high. The New York Times reports that over the past seven days, there have been 2,075 new COVID cases in Idaho. And as of Sept. 21, there have been almost 37,770 total coronavirus cases in the state.


The skyline of Milwaukee, Wisconsin at sunset.

Wisconsin's ongoing COVID spike has been troubling health officials for some time now. While the state's positive test rate of 17.0 percent is just slightly higher than South Dakota's, Wisconsin also has the highest infection rate in the country at 1.30. Beyond that, the state's 30.7 daily new cases per 100,000 people puts it in Covid Act Now's "critical" category. Just in the last week, Wisconsin has seen 12,620 new coronavirus cases, contributing to the almost 107,350 cases overall. And for more states with high infection rates, these are The 5 States Where COVID Is Now Spreading Fastest.

North Dakota

red river fargo north dakota U.S. state 1990s-era news stories

The gap between North Dakota's positive test rate and Wisconsin's is shocking: As of Sept. 21, North Dakota has a positive test rate of 24.8 percent, easily the highest in the U.S. And if that's not sufficiently concerning, the state also has by far the highest daily new case rate in the country, with 46.0 cases per 100,000 people. Designated as a "critical" state by Covid Act Now, North Dakota has added just over 2,380 coronavirus cases over the past seven days. That gives the state a total of more than 17,960 COVID cases thus far, according to The New York Times.

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