‘Not out of the woods’: CDC says large gatherings are a high COVID-19 risk, ‘strongly encourages’ face masks

As America opens up – and large political gatherings are scheduled to begin – the CDC is saying, "Don't forget your mask!"

During its first full media briefing since March 9, top officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to continue taking precautions to prevent the spread of the corornavirus that causes the illness, COVID-19, which has killed more than 114,000 people in the U.S.

The pandemic is not over, said Dr. Jay Butler, CDC’s Deputy Director of Infectious Diseases and COVID-19.

"The vast majority of Americans still have not been exposed to this virus,” he said.

The CDC also released new guidelines for safely holding and attending events and gatherings, as well as precautions to take when going out as lockdown orders that took effect nationwide in March are lifted.

While officials steered clear of specifically recommending against attending a President Trump political rally planned for June 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the guidelines published by the agency put such events in the category of “highest risk” for COVID-19 infection.

Specifically, it calls out, "large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area."

"The more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and COVID-19 spreading," Friday's guidelines said.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during the daily briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, at the White House April 17, 2020 in Washington.

During the 30-minute telephone call with reporters, CDC director Dr. Richard Redfield acknowledged living under lockdown hasn't been easy and everyone is eager to get back to normal life. But that needs to happen safely to protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19.

“To the America people I would like to say, ‘Thank you’ for being the individual public health heroes we need right now to handle this pandemic,” Redfield said.

Butler said every activity that involves interacting with others continues to have some degree of risk.

“We recognize that we’re all getting tired of staying home, people long for the lives that they had back in December and as we head into the summer months we know that Americas look forward to reconnecting with family and friends and to be able to attend events and we want that to occur as safely as possible,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

The rule of thumb, Butler said, is the closer you are to other people, the longer you interact with them and the more people involved in the interaction, the higher the chance of COVID-19 spread.

"The whole goal here is to continue to keep that curve as flattened as possible," he said.

The sign-up page for free tickets to Trump's rally in Tulsa did not say what measures would be taken to assure the safety of crowds or whether masks or social distancing would be required. It does come with a liability waiver that says the campaign or other parties associated with the event cannot be held liable for exposure to coronavirus.

“By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the waiver says.

Trump rallies have typically lasted for hours, with crowds waiting in packed quarters for them to begin and staying for his speeches, which can extend for an hour or more.

The CDC guidelines note: "Cloth face coverings are strongly encouraged in settings where individuals might raise their voice (e.g., shouting, chanting, singing)."

More:Fact check: CDC's estimates COVID-19 death rate around 0.26%, doesn't confirm it

More:The US is confronting coronavirus without the CDC. It's 'like fighting with one hand tied behind your back,' ex-director says.

More:CDC: Americans desperate to kill coronavirus are dangerously mixing cleaners, bleaching food

CDC suggestions:

When dining out, see if there’s an option to sit outside, or ensure that tables are 6 feet apart. Before you go call and ask if all staff are wearing cloth face coverings while at work. When possible, avoid items that are self-serve to limit the use of shared serving utensils.If you have a cookout, try to use disposable dishes and cutlery, practice hand hygiene and avoid sharing frequently-touched items like tongs, serving utensils and condiments. Remind guests to stay home if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19. If you hit the gym, don’t share items that can’t be cleaned and refrain from high fives and elbow bumps. Limit attendance at indoor group training sessions.When your library reopens, ask about possible curbside pickup of books.If you have a cookout, try to use disposable dishes and cutlery, practice hand hygiene and avoid sharing frequently-touched items like tongs, serving utensils and condiments. Remind guests to stay home if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19.

Contributing: Michael Collins and David Jackson

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2020/06/12/cdc-guidelines-coronavirus-opening-up-large-gatherings-face-masks-covid-19/3175519001/

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