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The News Tribune is offering this article free to all readers because it includes information important to public safety and health in our community.

Missouri as a state is now in the "red zone" of novel coronavirus infections, according to a new federal report, but Jefferson City and Cole County are among the Mid-Missouri municipalities the report notes are in the "yellow zone" and should take precautions to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Missouri is among 21 states listed as in the "red zone" — meaning the state is reporting more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people.

The federal report analyzing the status of COVID-19 infections in each state and categorizing the seriousness of their situations is an internal assessment of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

The New York Times this week published the most recent report of the task force. The Center for Public Integrity previously published an earlier task force assessment this month, indicating then that 18 states — not including Missouri — were in the red zone.

"Missouri had 131 new cases per 100,000 population in the past week, compared to a national average of 140 per 100,000," according to the latest report, dated July 26.

On July 19, there was a cumulative total of 33,094 cases in Missouri since March. On July 26, that number had grown to 41,927 cases.

Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services reported Wednesday a total of 46,750 cases.

The federal report also included that, over the past three weeks, St. Louis, Jackson and St. Charles counties had the highest number of new cases in Missouri, together representing 47.9 percent of the state's new cases.

However, the five Missouri metro areas in the red zone are Joplin, Branson, Sedalia, Kennett and Hannibal. The red zone designation for a metro area or county means, during the last week, new cases have been above 100 per 100,000 population and test results have been more than 10 percent positive.

Camden County is among the 13 Missouri counties in the red zone.

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Jefferson City is among 14 metro areas in yellow — also including St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Columbia, Cape Girardeau, Warrensburg and other major cities and towns across the state.

Yellow means new cases in the last week were 10-100 per 100,000 population and test results were 5-10 percent positive, or one of those two conditions was in place along with one condition that would qualify as being in the red zone.

Cole, Boone, Maries, Moniteau and Morgan counties were among the 56 counties also listed in the yellow zone.

On July 19, Cole County had reported 181 cumulative cases since March, and on July 26, that number had climbed to 222 — though the case total had not been updated over the weekend and was at 241 on July 27.

Mid-Missouri's Callaway, Miller and Osage counties were not listed in the federal report in either color-coded category.

The report lists "policy recommendations for counties in the yellow zone in order to preempt exponential community spread," built of strategies for public messaging, public officials and testing, including:

Limiting social gatherings to 25 people or fewer.

Limiting occupancy at gyms to 25 percent and closing bars until positive test result rates are under 3 percent.

Testing all workers at assisted living and long-term care facilities every week.

Ensuring all business retailers and personal services require masks and can practice social distancing.

Providing isolation facilities outside of people's homes if they cannot quarantine there.

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Urging the public to wear a mask outside their homes, not go to bars or nightclubs, protect people with serious underlying medical conditions at home by social distancing at home, and reduce their public interactions and activities to 50 percent of normal activity.

The full version of the most recent White House Coronavirus Task Force report is available at int.nyt.com/data/documenttools/states-report-virus-response-july-26/e241189157b34378/full.pdf.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services did not immediately comment Wednesday on Missouri's red zone status.

However, DHSS resumed reporting Missouri's COVID-19 hospitalization data Wednesday.

There had been a two-week gap in the state's hospitalization data since July 12 because of a change in reporting issued by the White House to switch data collection from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to a private technology firm based in Pennsylvania.

The new data show there had been 797 people hospitalized July 26 due to COVID-19, with 808 hospitalized the day before. There had been 875 people hospitalized July 12.

However, the state's COVID-19 dashboard website, where the hospital data is reported, also noted: "Due to variation in the interpretation of the definition of suspected COVID-19 patients, there may be slight discrepancies in the reporting of this measure. The Missouri Hospital Association has sought clarification from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and are awaiting formally documented clarification, which will be shared with DHSS."

The most recent White House task force report includes: "During Jul 18-Jul 24, on average, 69 patients with confirmed COVID-19 and 251 patients with suspected COVID-19 were reported as newly admitted each day to hospitals in Missouri. An average of 80 percent of hospitals reported each day during this period; therefore, this may be an underestimate of the actual total number of COVID-related hospitalizations. Underreporting may lead to a lower allocation of critical supplies."

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