by Vivian Jones
Six metro areas and 19 counties in Tennessee are designated as coronavirus red zones in a private report prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
The 359-page report, dated July 14, identifies local COVID-19 hotspots across the U.S. and recommends increased restrictions for those areas. It was obtained and published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom based in Washington. The authors of the report are not specified.
Officials in Tennessee’s 25 red zone areas are recommended to close bars and gyms and create outdoor dining opportunities, limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer and ensure businesses and services require masks and safe social distancing practices. Increased contact tracer recruitment and messaging on risks for those with pre-existing medical conditions also are encouraged.
“Many of the suggestions listed are already in place in certain counties in Tennessee, and we are working with local governments on the best way to address the pandemic in their unique communities,” Gillum Ferguson, a spokesman for Gov. Bill Lee, told The Center Square.
Counties in the red zone include Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Bradley, Sevier, Hamblen, Macon, Robertson, Bedford, Dyer, Lauderdale and Smith.
The report defines local red zone areas as those that reported both 100 or more new cases per 100,000 population and a test positivity rate of above 10 percent.
Thirteen metro areas and 44 counties in Tennessee are designated as yellow zones, meaning they reported between 10 and 100 new cases per 100,000 in population and a test positivity rate between 5 percent and 10 percent. The top yellow zone cities are Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Morristown, Cookeville, Clarksville and Jackson.
Statewide, the report recommends decreasing indoor dining to 25 percent capacity and limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people. It also recommends increased testing, contact tracing recruitment, expansion of testing capacity and and testing households in one tube for faster turnaround times.
“The Unified Command Group is in close contact with White House officials to provide regular updates on COVID-19’s presence in Tennessee and to share best practices and challenges the state is facing in responding to the pandemic,” Ferguson said.
The White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not respond to requests for comment.
Read the full report here. Tennessee’s section begins on page 295.
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Vivian Jones reports on Tennessee and South Carolina for The Center Square.