CDC Emphasizes Pandemic Not Over, Need to Avoid Large Gatherings

Troy Brown, RN

June 12, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

In its first media briefing on coronavirus in more than 3 months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and large gatherings pose a high risk for COVID-19 transmission.

Robert Redfield, MD, Director, CDC, and Jay C. Butler, MD, Deputy Director of Infectious Diseases and COVID-19 Response Incident Manager, CDC, discussed two new sets of CDC guidance on deciding to go out and attending group gatherings.

"We recognize that we're all getting tired of staying at home; people long for the life that they had back in December, and as we head into the summer months, we know that Americans will be looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends and being able to attend events, and we want that to occur as safely as possible," Butler said.

"Our recommendations evolved based on new information that becomes available, but it continues to be extremely important that we embrace the recommendations of social distancing, handwashing, and wearing a face covering when we're in public as some of the key defenses that we have against this virus," Redfield explained.

"The pandemic is not over and it's important to recognize that. While COVID-19 is still making headlines everywhere, we know the pandemic hasn't affected everyone everywhere in the same way," Butler said.

He noted that it is important to prepare for next fall and winter, when we can expect influenza season to complicate matters. "If anything, we must be overly-prepared for what we might face later this year," he continued, adding that it is important to get vaccinated against influenza. "[F]lu and COVID-19 could be circulating together as we move into the fall and winter months," he concluded.

Americans Mostly Following Guidelines

The agency also presented data from an article published online today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that "underscores the fact that American people have taken mitigation efforts seriously…and it demonstrates our collective spirit in responding to the pandemic," Butler said.

In it, the researchers describe representative panel surveys conducted among 4042 adults aged 18 years or older in New York City and Los Angeles — the two most populous cities in the United States — and "broadly across the United States" during May 5 to May 12, 2020.

Most respondents supported stay-at-home orders and nonessential business closures (United States, 79.5%; New York City, 86.7%; Los Angeles, 81.5%) and always or often wore cloth face coverings in public (United States, 74.1%; New York City, 89.6%; Los Angeles, 89.8%). Respondents also agreed that nonessential workers should remain at home (United States, 67.3%; New York City, 76.6%; Los Angeles, 69.1%), report Mark É. Czeisler, from Monash University and Austin Health, both in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues.

There was wide support with public health guidelines: more than 87% of individuals in each area agreed that individuals should keep six feet of distance between themselves and others, and more than 82% in each area said that people should limit gatherings to fewer than 10 individuals.

At the time the survey was conducted, most were against indoor dining at restaurants (United States, 66.6%; New York City, 81.5%; Los Angeles, 71.8%).

Adherence "Widespread," Survey Finds

Most respondents said they were adhering to COVID-19 mitigation guidance, including self-isolating (United States, 77.3%; New York City, 84.6%; Los Angeles, 83.0%) and "always or often" kept at least six feet between themselves and others (New York City, 85.7%; Los Angeles, 82.6%).

More than 85% of respondents in each of the three cohorts said they always or often avoided groups of 10 or more individuals.

About 90% of respondents said they had been in a public area during the last week, with 74.1% of those saying they always or often covered their face in public; respondents in New York City (89.6%) and Los Angeles (89.8%) had higher percentages of this behavior compared with respondents from the United States overall.

Most respondents felt that restrictions in their state were balanced or too lax (United States, 84.3%; New York City, 89.7%; Los Angeles, 79.7%) and said they would feel unsafe if restrictions were eased nationwide at that time (United States, 74.3%; New York City, 81.5%; Los Angeles, 73.4%). However, some individuals who said they would feel unsafe still wanted community mitigation strategies eased and were willing to accept risks resulting from lifting restrictions (United States, 17.1%; New York City, 12.6%; Los Angeles, 12.7%).

"Reported prevalence of self-isolation and feeling safe if community mitigation strategies were lifted differed significantly by age, employment status, and essential worker status among adults in the U.S. survey cohort," the authors write.

Reports of self-isolation were highest among persons aged 18 to 24 years (92.3%) and lowest among those aged 45 to 54 years (71.5%). Yet, young adults aged 18 to 24 years (43.1%) were more than twice as likely to say they would feel safe if community mitigation strategies were eased, compared with adults aged 65 years or older (19.2%).

Almost half (47.2%) of employed respondents in the US cohort were essential workers; essential workers were "significantly less likely" to report self-isolating when compared with nonessential workers (63.1% vs 80.6%). Some 37.7% of essential workers said they would feel safe if community mitigation strategies were eased, compared with 23.7% of nonessential workers.

"Respondents who were male, employed, or essential workers were significantly more likely to report having been in public areas in the past week. Among respondents who had been in public areas during the preceding week, significantly higher percentages of women, adults aged ≥ 65 years, retired persons, and those living in urban areas reported wearing cloth face coverings," the authors explain.

The findings are subject to several limitations, including self-reporting and the fact that some respondents may have known someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or died from it, the authors note. Respondents were not representative of the US population and the findings may not be generalizable.

MMWR. Published online June 12, 2020. Full text

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