The White House coronavirus task force has placed 18 states in a so-called "red zone," recommending in an internal report that they roll back plans to reopen their economies and lift restrictions.

New Jersey is not on that list.

The Garden State was one of the earliest states to get hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in March, second only to New York in the number of deaths. But since mid April, the number of new cases, hospitalizations and new deaths have dropped precipitously. Public health officials have credited the state's aggressive social-distancing restrictions and widespread compliance by residents and businesses for the positive trajectory.

Covid Act Now, a project of Stanford Medicine and Georgetown University, on Friday listed New Jersey and Vermont as the only two states "on track to contain COVID." The nonprofit has added and removed New Jersey from that short list a number of times in recent weeks.

The unpublished White House report obtained by the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity news site, said that the 18 states in the red zone should enact rules limiting social gatherings to 10 people or fewer, close bars and gyms and ask residents to wear masks at all times.

But the governor of one of those ravaged states — Georgia — has sued the government of Atlanta to prevent the city from enforcing its own mask rules.

Center for Public Integrity
Center for Public Integrity

The White House document, dated July 14, lists New Jersey in the "yellow zone" for cases, meaning 10 to 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the previous week. New Jersey is in the "green zone" for test positivity because its rate is below 5%.

New Jersey's rate of 21 new cases for every 100,000 residents was lower than the national average of 119 per 100,000, the report says. The largest increases in New Jersey were in Bergen, Camden and Monmouth counties.

The state's death rate in the second week of July was still high — 4 deaths for every 100,000 people. The national rate was 1 per 100,000.

The report recommends that New Jersey continue weekly testing of all workers in assisted living and long-term care facilities while requiring face coverings and social distancing for all visitors at those facilities; continue requiring face coverings in public spaces; and scale up contact tracing.

New Jersey lifted most restrictions from businesses although gyms and indoor dining are still off limits. Gov. Phil Murphy aborted a plan to allow limited indoor dining starting earlier this month because of skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in other states and reports of spotty compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing at venues in New Jersey.

New Jersey's infection rate has been hovering just above or below 1 in recent weeks. The state's rate of transmission was reported Friday as 1.11, meaning that every infected person is likely to spread the virus to an average of 1.11 people. State health officials want the rate to remain below 1.

As of Friday, New Jersey had recorded 13,710 deaths from COVID-19 with another 1,974 probable deaths.

KEEP READING: Is New Jersey beating the virus?

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email

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