Re-openings, Protests Highlight Need for Renewed Attention to COVID-19 Precautions, Prevention, Preparedness
As strict stay-at-home orders are suspended in states across the country and mass calls for racial justice continue to bring large numbers of people together, individual protective measures as well as responsive public policies and resources will be paramount to controlling the spread of COVID-19.
- Wear masks that cover the nose and mouth in all public settings;
- Wash or sanitize hands frequently;
- Maintain recommended physical distancing for the protection of themselves and those around them;
- Be aware of their surroundings in large gatherings and plan an exit route in advance in the event physical distancing becomes impossible.
Federal, state and local authorities should:
- Enact consistent requirements and clear guidelines regarding these measures to reduce confusion and ensure individuals have the information they need to protect their health;
- Conduct public information campaigns to educate the public on risk levels associated with specific activities and on risk reduction measures;
- Disseminate extensive and ongoing guidelines regarding effective sanitization of re-opened businesses and all public settings;
- Provide masks and sanitizer at government-supported events and services;
- Ensure that protest gatherings are not confined to limited areas that do not allow for appropriate physical distancing;
- Expand testing capacity and accessibility as potential exposures to the virus increase in public settings, particularly to those at greatest risk. Widely disseminate information on testing availability, and, where testing is not universally accessible, give priority to people at greatest risk of exposure, including frontline workers and people who have attended protests or other mass gatherings.
Federal, state and local officials should be aware that the use of chemical aerosols that irritate mucous membranes to disperse crowds – whether tear gas or “pepper balls”-- poses additional public health risks during a pandemic.
As new infections are detected, our health system must be prepared to respond with appropriate tools and a ready workforce. We are all in the fight against this pandemic together. As infectious diseases specialists responding to the continuing impacts of COVID-19, we call on policy makers, public officials, communities and individuals to work together to protect public health and to help to end this public health crisis.