C.D.C. Calls for Face Masks at Large Gatherings, Warning of Crowd Risks

C.D.C. Calls for Face Masks at Large Gatherings, Warning of Crowd Risks


C.D.C. Calls for Face Masks at Large Gatherings, Warning of Crowd Risks

C.D.C. Calls for Face Masks at Large Gatherings, Warning of Crowd Risks

Three months after the country’s top public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, abruptly stopped holding regular briefings on the coronavirus pandemic, its director, Dr. Robert Redfield, restarted them on Friday amid growing calls for the agency to claim a more prominent role in the virus response.

The C.D.C. also released a new guidance document, “Considerations for Events and Gatherings,” that defines as “highest risk” large gatherings where it is difficult for people to stay at least six feet apart, and where attendees travel from outside the local area.

The guidance was issued as people around the country are participating in large outdoor protests of racial injustice and police brutality, and as President Trump prepares to resume large political rallies. It advises that staff members at large events be required to wear face coverings, and that attendees be encouraged to do so — in keeping with previous C.D.C. guidance on wearing face coverings in public.

Dr. Redfield ceded most of the question-and-answer session to Dr. Jay Butler, the agency’s deputy director for infectious diseases. Dr. Butler offered cautious responses to several contentious questions, including “whether C.D.C. is saying political rallies are OK right now.” Next week, Mr. Trump is planning to hold his first rally in more than three months at a 19,000-seat indoor arena in Tulsa, Okla.

“The guideline is really for any type of gathering,” Dr. Butler said, “whether it’s the backyard barbecue or something larger, and it’s not intended to endorse any particular type of event.”

He added that the guidelines were “not requirements, they’re not commands,” but suggestions for keeping people safe.

In addition to its guidance for holding gatherings, the agency released recommendations and factors to consider when resuming daily activities like going to the bank, holding cookouts and going to the gym.

It also released results of a survey of 2,200 adults around the country, particularly in New York City and Los Angeles, that found broad support for stay-at-home orders, nonessential business closures, and other measures that were taken in recent months to slow the virus’s spread.

Asked about rising rates of infection in Arizona and a number of other states, Dr. Butler emphasized that it was important to distinguish between increased case counts being a result of more testing and a new outbreak. But hospitalizations and positive test rates are also rising in several of the states seeing spikes in infection, indicating that the virus is spreading in some communities as they reopen.

Dr. Redfield emphasized that “aggressive” testing of certain high-risk populations, including nursing home residents, prison inmates and clinics that serve the urban poor, will be crucial going forward.

Calls for the C.D.C. to resume its briefings have grown louder since President Trump’s coronavirus task force stopped holding briefings more than a month ago. The agency’s routine in past health emergencies was to hold frequent, sometimes daily briefings; Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Dr. Redfield’s predecessor, was highly visible during the Ebola and Zika crises.

  • Updated June 12, 2020

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?

      Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


But the C.D.C. stopped holding its own regular briefings about the coronavirus on March 9, shortly after one of its top leaders, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, issued a stark public warning during one session that the virus would disrupt American lives, sending stocks tumbling and angering Mr. Trump.

Since then, a number of public health experts have accused the White House of sidelining the C.D.C. And the agency, hindered not only by interference from the White House but also by aging technology and a slow, cautious culture, has not always been nimble in its pandemic response.

Dr. Redfield has given sporadic interviews during the pandemic, and held a briefing with a handful of reporters late last month, but has generally ceded the spotlight to Dr. Deborah Birx, Mr. Trump’s coronavirus task force coordinator, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

On Friday, Dr. Redfield thanked Americans “for being the individual public heroes that we need right now to fight this pandemic” by following recommendations such as social distancing, wearing face coverings in public and frequent hand washing.

“I’m hopeful that we will continue to have these dialogues,” he said.


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