The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for how to re-engage with daily life as states reopen businesses and attractions after months of being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And, while experts said the guidelines contain few surprises, the recommendations are important to help prevent a spike in cases.
The CDC released updated guidelines last week for making decisions about resuming daily activities, such as running errands, eating at restaurants, traveling overnight or hosting gatherings or cookouts. The new guidelines came mere days before Connecticut plans to launch on Wednesday its second phase of reopening, which will include indoor dining and gyms, among other businesses.
Though there’s good advice about individual activities and venues in the CDC guidelines, a lot of this should be second nature by now, said Dr. Michael Parry, director of infectious disease at Stamford Hospital.
“Again, it’s hand hygiene, social distancing, it’s contact cleaning and it’s mask wearing,” he said. “It’s the same stuff, just adapted to each venue.”
The guidelines also ask people to stay home if they have any symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, chills, fever, and shortness of breath, among others) or have other reasons to believe they are infected. The CDC also advises that people consider such questions as how many people will be at a venue or how long they plan to stay before deciding to go somewhere. There’s even a list of supplies people should keep at hand while they are out and about, including tissues, a face mask and hand sanitizer.
The latest recommendations also include tailored advice for specific activities. For instance, before visiting a gym, the CDC recommends making sure there is enough space for social distancing, and gravitating toward classes and programs that are outdoors, if possible.
When it comes to hosting cookouts or other gatherings, the guidelines urge people to “remind invited guests to stay home if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days or are showing COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone who has had close contact with a person who has COVID-19 should also stay home and monitor their health. Invited guests who live with those at higher risk should also consider the potential risk to their loved ones.”
The CDC also suggests hosting events outdoors when possible, and to consider providing face coverings for guests (or request that they bring their own).
One expert was somewhat mixed on the new guidelines, saying they’re good in theory, but might not work in practice.
“These still have some good recommendations, but lack realistic practicality when you think of the everyday person,” said Michael Urban, director of occupational therapy at the University of New Haven. “The gyms, for example, most are $10 per month and poorly staffed leaving it up to a person to clean the machines before and after use. Also, most gyms do not have adequate air flow in and tend to be known to have increase risk of germ transmission if not adhering strongly to a cleaning protocol.”
Urban said he’s pleased the guidelines exist, but he wishes there was more to them than the expected tips about mask-wearing and hand-washing.
“Overall, any info still is helpful, but, for being our nation’s center on disease, they should be clearer and stronger and have happened sooner,” he said.