WASHINGTON, D.C. — 47 states and Washington, D.C. are in a critical stage of the coronavirus pandemic, as they've all been labeled "red zones" by the White House Coronavirus Task Force based on case rates and hospitalizations.

This includes North Dakota, which leads the nation in new cases per 100,000 people.

Admiral Brett Giroir, a member of the task force, said slowing the spread needs to happen quicker nationwide.

"We're in the belly of the beast right now," he said. "Rates are going up nationally, (and) hospitalizations are going up nationally."

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Case rates are also going up statewide, as White House data shows cases have spiked over the past month.

This month-by-month comparison shows a spike in COVID-19 cases in North Dakota from October (bottom) to November (top). Special to the Forum
This month-by-month comparison shows a spike in COVID-19 cases in North Dakota from October (bottom) to November (top). Special to the Forum

Foster, Barnes and Stutsman Counties all rank in the top 10 for recent cases, according to the New York Times.

Despite discouraging numbers, Giroir said measures like the statewide mask mandate and keeping schools open have been key for a potential turnaround.

"We found that schools are not a hotbed for transmission at all," he said. "In fact, children are probably safer in school from COVID than they are in the community."

Giroir believes if everyone follows statewide guidelines for the next two to three weeks, the curve will start to flatten, adding it's especially important with the holidays coming up.

"You don't have to be right next to Grandma, you could be in a rocking chair across the room," Giroir said when describing how family gatherings for Thanksgiving should be handled.

Even though it's looking grim right now, Giroir said the light at the end of the tunnel — a vaccine — is coming closer every day.

"When we get vaccines, the end is going to be near," he said. "The pandemic will be over."