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Here's Where COVID Risk Is the Highest

10 states are currently in the red zone, per White House Coronavirus Task Force standards 

Red, orange, yellow, and green. Over the last several months those colors have come to be associated with the level of COVID-19 infection in states across the country. While the most fiery shade on the spectrum represents regions where the virus is literally on fire, signifying over 25 daily new cases per 100,000 people, the "go" color represents where the infection is the lowest, below one new case per 100,000.

This week, as cases continue to rise across the nation, there are five states in particular that have been deemed the highest risk states in the country based on a scale developed by the Harvard Global Health Institute and collaboration of top scientists at institutions around the country and analyzed by NPR. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.


North Dakota

A BNSF Railway locomotive pushes on the rear of an empty coal train in the North Dakota Badlands

Currently, North Dakota is reporting 401 new cases daily, with the most new infections per capita — 53 per 100,000 people. According to October 2 statistics, they experienced a 10% increase in infections over the last 14 days. The state has seen three health directors come and go since May, including the latest, Dr. Paul Mariani, who left after less than a month. On Wednesday, state Gov. Doug Burgum, who has been resistant to regulatory measures, issued a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone exposed to the virus. "If you are a close contact or household contact with somebody who's positive, we now know that there's possibly a one in three chance you'll turn out positive yourself," he said. However, the state still hasn't issued a mandatory mask mandate. 


South Dakota

South Dakota Welcome sign

Their neighbor, South Dakota, is also one of the most troubling states in the country with 424 new cases daily, averaging out to 48 per 100,000. This signifies a 51% increase in cases over the last two weeks. However, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who has resisted issuing mask mandates or business restrictions, maintains that the state is proof "you don't need lockdowns to be responsible and flatten the curve."

RELATED: CDC Warns of Deadly New COVID Syndrome



Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA downtown city skyline on Lake Michigan at twilight.

Wisconsin has been in the news a lot of the last few weeks due to their record-shattering spike in cases. Currently they are averaging out to 2,440 new cases daily with an infection rate of 42 per 100,000 people. Their number of infections has increased to the tune of 55 % over the last 14 days. On Wednesday they even shattered their own record for the total number of deaths in a day and on Friday, their hospital beds were at 82% capacity. "We need folks to start taking this seriously, and young people especially—please stay at home as much as you are able, skip heading to the bars, and wear a mask whenever you go out," Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement on Sept. 22, extending the state's indoor mask policy. 



Sunset in Montana

In Montana, the number of infections has increased over 111% in just two weeks and the state is breaking records in terms of new infections. They are currently averaging 327 new cases daily with an infection rate of 31 per 100,000. On Saturday alone, they reported 501 new infections — the highest number since the pandemic started. "It's not that we're overstressed right now, but our hospitals are certainly busy and this puts us in an especially difficult position as we move into cold and flu season," Gov. Steve Bullock said during a Sept. 30 press conference. "We need to get this virus under control and the way we can do it is by once again taking this virus seriously."

RELATED: 11 Symptoms of COVID You Never Want to Get




Utah is experiencing 947 added COVID cases daily, with an infection rate of 30 per 100,000 residents. In two weeks, the number of infections has soared 30%. "It's happening in a variety of different states, different locations. It's like everybody is taking their turn," Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday during his weekly press conference. "So, we're not in a unique situation, it's still frustrating for all of us, I'm sure, as we see these spikes that are taking place.


Other States in the Red Zone

An ambulance on an emergency call driving through the town center of Fairhope

Idaho, plus four midwestern states — Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Oklahoma — are also in the red zone. 

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Sees Signs of a New COVID Surge


So, What States Are Green?

Montpelier, Vermont, USA town skyline in autumn.

According to this latest analysis, the only state in the country where the infection rate is below one new case per 100,000 is Vermont. 


How to Avoid COVID-19

Women hands holding hand sanitizer with alcohol spray and surgical mask.

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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