U.S. health officials urged organizers of large gatherings that involve shouting, chanting or singing to “strongly encourage” attendees to wear face masks, following more than a week of protests during which many attendees did not wear masks.
The new recommendations Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are part of long-awaited guidelines from U.S. health officials about how to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
The guidelines also advise people to bring their own food and drinks to cookouts, use hand sanitizer after touching public surfaces and choose businesses where staff are wearing face masks.
For large gatherings, the guidance says planners should consider several strategies, including reducing capacity, reconfiguring parking lots and restricting attendance to those who live in the local area.
The recommendations come after more than a week of protests across the United States following the death of George Floyd, a black man in police custody in Minneapolis, and as President Donald Trump plans to restart holding campaign rallies.
When asked if the guidelines apply to political gatherings, Jay Bulter, the CDC’s deputy director of infectious diseases, did not directly answer the question in a call with reporters, saying only, “They are not regulations. They are not commands.”
He added, “They are recommendations or even suggestions ... how you can have a gathering that will keep people as safe as possible.”
The guidelines repeat earlier advice about wearing face coverings, maintaining 2 meters of social distance and washing hands regularly. They come as some U.S. states are reporting an increase in coronavirus cases after starting to reopen their economies.
The CDC's director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said during the call that it is understandable that Americans want to return to normal activities, but it is important to remember “this situation is unprecedented, and that the pandemic has not ended.”
Bulter warned that states might need to reimpose strict restrictions if COVID-19 cases spike.
"If cases begin to go up again, particularly if they go up dramatically, it is important to recognize that more mitigation efforts such as what were implemented back in March may be needed again," he said.
At the White House, officials played down the threat of a new spike in the coronavirus. Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, told "Fox & Friends” Friday, “I spoke to our health experts at some length last evening. They’re saying there is no second spike. Let me repeat that: There is no second spike."
He said that while there are some places in the country where cases are increasing, nationally the rates of new cases and fatalities have flattened out. “There is no emergency,” Kudlow said. "There is no second wave.”
A spike in new cases in the northwestern U.S. state of Oregon has prompted Gov. Kate Brown to delay reopening plans by one week. Brown announced the delay on Thursday after 177 new cases and two deaths were reported. The state’s Supreme Court on Friday upheld the shutdown orders.
The U.S. states of Florida, Idaho and Georgia said this week they planned to proceed with reopening plans, despite high numbers of new cases.
The United States has more than 2 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 114,600 deaths.