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CDC releases new safety guidance as states lift limits

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta. (Dreamstime/TNS)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday released new guidelines for people who are considering venturing out in their communities and warned that attending large gatherings remains a high risk.

The CDC’s guidance for attending gatherings and going out if people choose to do so comes as President Donald Trump has announced he will return to holding large campaign rallies next week, and the Republican National Committee announced Thursday that the party would gather in Jacksonville, Fla., in August to celebrate Trump’s re-nomination.

CDC Director Robert Redfield said in the agency’s first news conference since March that it is important for people to remember that the pandemic is still ongoing. He said people should continue social distancing and taking steps like hand washing and wearing a cloth mask to protect themselves and others from the virus.

“I know that people are eager to return to normal activities and ways of life; however, it’s important that we remember that the situation is unprecedented and that the pandemic has not ended,” Redfield said.

The guidance recommends that people attending gatherings use proper hand hygiene, wear cloth facial coverings and maintain social distancing, or keeping a 6-foot distance from others, when possible. It says attending virtual events is the lowest-risk option, while the highest-risk is attending a large, in-person gathering where it’s difficult to keep 6 feet apart from others and people from different communities are attending.

When asked about the Trump campaign’s planned rallies, Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director of infectious diseases and COVID-19 response incident manager, said the guidance applied to all types of gatherings and were suggestions, not requirements. He said people should not attend any types of gatherings if they are sick.

“The guidelines are really for any type of gatherings, whether it’s the backyard barbecue or something larger. And it’s not intended to endorse any particular type of event but to be able to be applicable to any type of event that may occur,” Butler said.

The news conference comes the day after the Trump campaign formally announced a rally on June 19, its first in months. The campaign is asking supporters to waive liability if they are exposed to and come down with COVID-19 after attending the Tulsa, Okla., event.

The CDC did not provide a recommended limit on the number of people at mass gatherings as officials did in March when the nation began to lock down to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The agency also gave suggestions for activities that people are looking to do in the coming months, such as dining out, attending cookouts, going to the gym or traveling overnight. Those suggestions include making reservations ahead of time, using cashless payment options, avoiding buffets and researching what sorts of precautions a business is taking to adapt to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Butler said the so-called curve of the disease has flattened that nationally but cases could rise in the coming weeks as states lift more restrictions and people go out more.

In recent days, the number of cases has risen in many states. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said in a Thursday press release that she was pausing the state from further reopening for a week, calling it a “yellow light.”

“This one-week pause will give public health experts time to assess what factors are driving the spread of the virus and determine if we need to adjust our approach to reopening,” she said. “I will work with doctors and public health experts to determine whether to lift this pause or extend it or make other adjustments.”

Butler said the number of cases in a state is just one factor that officials consider. They also look at hospitalization rates and the use of emergency departments for COVID-like illnesses.

“Right now, in looking nationally again, the hospitalization rates are going down and it looks, of the places where we’ve looked, that the increase in the recent week or two in the number of cases diagnosed, we’re not confirming dramatic increases in the number of hospitalization,” he said.

“That’s by no means meant to suggest that this is not something we’re not very concerned about and we’ll be working on very closely,” he added.


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