CDC urges organizers of large gatherings to encourage mask wearing

CDC urges organizers of large gatherings to encourage mask wearing
© Greg Nash

New guidance from federal health officials urges the organizers of large gatherings to require the use of face coverings among staff.

The guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) "strongly encourages" masks in settings "where individuals might raise their voice" for shouting, chanting or singing.

The new recommendations come after President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE announced he will hold an indoor rally next week in Oklahoma, the first since most of the country shut down as a result of the pandemic. The Trump campaign will require attendees to sign a waiver before getting a ticket.

In addition, the recommendations coincide with plans by the Republican National Committee (RNC) to hold a full-scale convention in Jacksonville, Fla., after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said that the RNC would only be able to hold scaled-back convention in the initial host city of Charlotte.

The CDC's guidelines come after protests across the country, where thousands of people have been marching side-by-side in the streets to protest police brutality. Many of the police and some of the marchers have not been wearing masks. 

During a call with reporters to announce the new guidance, CDC officials insisted the recommendations are not meant for any specific gathering, sidestepping questions about whether they would apply for political rallies.

"They are not regulations, they are not commands, but they are recommendations or even suggestions ... to be able to have a gathering that will keep people as safe as possible," said Jay Butler, the CDC's deputy director for Infectious Diseases.

The call with reporters was the first time CDC officials have had a press conference since March.

The agency ranked the types of events by the risk of transmission; the lowest risk was a virtual event, and the highest risks were "large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area."

The CDC said the size of an event or gathering should be determined based on state and local safety laws and regulations.

Every state in the country has moved ahead with some kind of reopening plan, but the levels of restrictions have varied. 

Butler and CDC Director Robert Redfield acknowledged that the public has largely grown tired of staying at home, but they cautioned that the outbreak is not over. Many Americans have not been exposed to the virus and remain at risk, Butler said.

Butler and Redfield warned that states could see new cases as they reopen and the number of mass gatherings also increases.

Recent surges in states like Arizona, Florida and South Carolina have drawn concern from public experts and some public health officials, even as governors have indicated they are unlikely to reimpose strict stay-at-home orders again.