These 4 States Need to Roll Back on Reopening, Harvard Doctor Says

Ashish Jha, MD, says these states should contain their COVID outbreaks while they still can.

COVID numbers are on the rise across the country, with no signs the coronavirus pandemic is on the way out. No matter how you look at it—rising case numbers, hospitalizations, positive test rates—the U.S. is facing a crisis, and some hard-hit states may need to reconsider their plans for moving forward. But with so much data rolling in every day—and with the epicenters of the pandemic dominating national coverage—it can be tough to get a handle on which states should roll back on reopening.

In a July 11 Twitter thread, Ashish Jha, MD, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, explained his own color-coded system for determining the risk levels of every state based on new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. He identified four states that are in the "yellow" category, but that are inching closer to "orange." These states should "ratchet back activity," he cautioned, and "all of them should try to suppress virus—they still can." Here are the four states that need to make some changes in their reopening plans. And for more states that should be considering a shutdown, These 14 States Are Looking at Another Lockdown, Harvard Researchers Say.


cincinnati ohio skyline

Ohio is one of the "yellow" states that Jha believes can still get a handle on its outbreak. The experts at Covid Act Now put it in the high COVID risk category. That's largely because the state has an infection rate (the average number of people a sick person will infect) of 1.19, which means cases are spreading quickly. As of July 13, The New York Times reports almost 65,600 coronavirus cases in Ohio, with nearly 3,060 deaths. And for more areas experts are worried about, The CDC Warns That These Are the Next 10 Coronavirus Hotspots.


lexington kentucky

Jha may regard Kentucky as a "yellow" state, but cases there are spreading even faster than in Ohio. Kentucky has a high infection rate of 1.23, and when it comes to containment, the state is stifled by its limited number of contact tracers. There are currently only enough to trace 38 percent of new cases. Kentucky now has more than 19,760 COVID cases, and there have been just under 650 deaths. And for more on reopening moving forward, Dr. Fauci Has This Alarming Message About Future State Lockdowns.


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How bad is the situation in Missouri? That depends on who you ask. Although Jha calls it a "yellow" state, Covid Act Now puts Missouri in the "critical" category, thanks in large part to the lack of contact tracers. But the infection rate of 1.21 also means that cases are spreading quickly, and despite a new mask law in St. Louis, the governor has yet to issue a statewide mandate. As of July 13, Missouri has over 29,170 coronavirus cases, and more than 1,110 deaths. And for more states in need of immediate intervention, These 10 States' Coronavirus Outbreaks Are Now "Critical" Experts Say.

West Virginia

huntington west virginia

The final "yellow" state Jha is urging to scale back reopening is West Virginia, which—like Missouri—recently found itself on Covid Act Now's "critical" list. That's because West Virginia has the highest infection rate of any state in the country at 1.42. More widespread testing, as Jha suggests, could go a long way toward containment, but lockdown might be necessary to slow the spread. There are now more than 4,240 COVID cases in West Virginia, and there have been around 95 deaths. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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