The Trump administration issued new safety advice for individuals and for those seeking to hold events, warning “the pandemic is not over” even as states increasingly relax restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are for individuals to continue wearing face coverings in public, washing their hands and practicing social distancing when possible. They said individuals should continue to follow guidance from local and state authorities.
“The bad news today is that the pandemic is not over, and it’s important to recognize that,” said Jay Butler, M.D., CDC’s deputy director of infectious diseases and COVID-19 response incident manager, in a call with reporters. “The good news is, nationally, we have been successful in flattening the curve. The number of new cases each day has been relatively plateaued over a prolonged period of time. But right now communities are experiencing different levels of transmission and this is occurring as they gradually ease up on some of the community mitigation efforts and gradually reopen.”
Butler acknowledged there will likely be an increasing number of gatherings as people grow weary of following social distancing recommendations.
“We recognize we’re all getting tired of staying at home. People long for the life that they had back in December,” he said. “And as we head into the summer months, we know Americans will be looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends and looking to attend events, and we want that to occur as safely as possible.”
The guidance for both individuals and event planners advises them to understand the chances of transmission rise as the number of people interacting at an event increases and as the length of time they are interacting increases. The higher the level of community transmission in an area where a gathering is being held, the higher the risk of transmission, they said.
For instance, if people can’t take care of their banking online, they should prioritize drive-thru options, wear face coverings and immediately use hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol after completing their tasks.
Those hosting guests at their home should remind guests who’ve felt ill in the last 14 days to stay home and try to host the gathering outdoors or in a well-ventilated room. Chairs and tables should be arranged to allow social distancing, and guests should be encouraged to wear face masks.
Among the considerations for event planners, officials said they should:
- Have flexible sick leave policies and educate staff to stay home if they feel ill.
- Take steps to reiterate proper hand-washing protocol for staff as well as attendees, encourage face coverings—particularly in places where attendees may shout, chant or sing—and display signs discouraging handshakes, high-fives or fist bumps.
- Consider modified layouts such as limiting seating capacity and using multiple entrances and exists to reduce crowded waiting areas.
Butler said it is possible, if the numbers go up again dramatically, that individual states might need to resort to strict shelter-in-place orders again. But the guidance is aimed at reducing the chances that will be necessary.
“The whole goal is to keep that curve as flattened as possible and to delay the onset of new cases for two reasons,” Butler said. “We want to make sure critical infrastructure that’s important for societal function as well as the availability of healthcare services is maintained and that none of these services are overwhelmed by a sudden increase in the number of cases.”