Health Department offers suggestions for large-crowd events

From Greg Lara, Director, Gasconade County Health Department
Posted 9/30/20

The Director General of the World Health Organization has declared that the 2019-nCoV/COVID-19 constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of …

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Health Department offers suggestions for large-crowd events

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The Director General of the World Health Organization has declared that the 2019-nCoV/COVID-19 constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared that 2019-nCoV/COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency.

Based on the scientific evidence collected concerning COVID-19, the disease meets the definition of “severe acute respiratory syndromes.”

Due to the seriousness of this virus, along with our own county positivity rates and statistics, we are requesting all local businesses and community groups responsible for special events, festivals, etc., implement and have policies and procedures in place to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

We feel that this is the only way we can continue to get through this pandemic and continue to keep our community open. Based on the information we currently have, and DHSS and CDC event classifications listed in this planning tool festivals such as Octoberfest would be in the “highest risk” category.

First, please cooperate with your local public health agency which is working with all public authorities (county commissioners, city leaders, alderman, law enforcement, first responders, school leaders, medical professionals, etc.). We request that your facility puts in place, if not already implemented, best practice environmental controls to minimize and/or prevent further spread of COVID-19.

This may include control measures such as employee screening, mask use, physical distancing, handwashing, and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing, as appropriate to your facility. Guidance for these measures can be found on the DHSS website at https://health.mo.gov/ or CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

Guiding principles to keep in mind

A gathering refers to a planned or spontaneous event, indoors or outdoors, with a small number of people participating, or a large number of people in attendance. Examples of gatherings, small or large, include a community event, concert, festival, conference, parade, wedding, or sporting event.

The more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the individual’s potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and then spreading COVID-19 to others.

The higher the level of community transmission in the area where the gathering is held, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spreading at the gathering.

The size (attendance) of an event or gathering should be determined based on state, local, territorial, or tribal safety laws and regulations.

The risk of COVID-19 spreading at events and gatherings increases as follows:

Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings.

More risk: Smaller outdoor gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., a community, town, city, or county).

Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are organized/laid out to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, some wear cloth face coverings and come from outside the local area (e.g., a community, town, city, or county).

Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, do not wear cloth face coverings and travel from outside the local area.

CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for these types of events and instead encourages event organizers to focus on ways to limit people’s contact with each other. Each event organizer will need to determine the appropriate number for their setting.

CDC recommends they should still check to see if there are any, county, and city rules regarding any current restrictions limiting the number of attendees at events.

Gasconade County currently has no orders in place for this. CDC recommends several strategies to maintain social distancing for instance, organizers can:

• Limit attendance or seating capacity to allow for social distancing, or host smaller events in larger rooms.

• Block off rows or sections of seating in order to space people at least 6 feet apart.

• Use multiple entrances and exits and discourage crowded waiting areas.

• Eliminate lines or queues if possible or encourage people to stay at least 6 feet apart by providing signs or other visual cues such as tape or chalk marks.

• Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that individuals remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times (such as guides for creating one-way routes).

• Prioritize outdoor activities where social distancing can be maintained as much as possible.

• Offer online attendance options in addition to in-person attendance to help reduce the number of attendees.

• Consider limiting the number of people who occupy the restroom at one time to allow for social distancing.

• Do not allow lines or crowds to form near the restroom. Take steps to ensure that individuals can stay at least 6 feet apart from each other.

What about Face masks

CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who do not live in their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. CDC recommends that organizers require staff to wear cloth face coverings and encourage attendees ahead of events to bring and wear cloth face coverings at the event.

Cloth face coverings are most essential when physical distancing is difficult (such as when moving within a crowd or audience). Cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms.

Cloth face coverings are not surgical masks or respirators. They are not personal protective equipment.

Cloth face coverings are strongly encouraged in settings where individuals might raise their voices (such as shouting, chanting, singing). Provide all staff with information on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings.

Advise staff that cloth face coverings should not be placed on:

• Babies or children younger than 2 years old;

• Anyone who has trouble breathing;

• Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance.

What preventative actions can staff, and attendees take to help limit the spread?

Encourage staff and attendees to take everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19.

This includes:

• Cleaning your hands often.

• Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

• Staying home when you are sick.

• Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.

• Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

• Using a cloth face covering in public, especially when it may be difficult to maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people.

Other measures staff can take: Event staff should use several strategies to maintain healthy environments, including cleaning and disinfection:

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces within the venue at least daily or between uses as much as possible — for example, door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains, grab bars, hand railings, and cash registers.

• Clean and disinfect shared objects between uses — for example, payment terminals, tables, countertops, bars, and condiment holders. Consider closing areas such as drinking fountains that cannot be adequately cleaned and disinfected during an event.

• Develop a schedule for increased, routine cleaning and disinfection. Plan for and enact these cleaning routines when renting event space and ensure that other groups who may use your facilities follow these routines.

• Ensure safe and correct use and storage to avoid harm to employees and other individuals. Always read and follow label instructions for each product, and store products securely away from children.

• Use disposable gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash. After using disposable gloves, throw them out in a lined trash can. Do not disinfect or reuse the gloves. Wash hands after removing gloves.

• Avoid offering any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars, and drink stations. Consider having pre-packaged boxes or bags for each attendee.

• Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible — for example, by opening windows and doors and prioritizing outdoor seating. However, do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk to customers or employees (e.g., risk of falling or triggering asthma symptoms).

A team of state agencies, including specialized personnel in DHSS, the Department of Economic Development, and the Missouri Department of Agriculture, are also available to assist with your efforts. Additional outreach, such as a phone call or visit from staff from one of these agencies may be forthcoming.

If you have questions or concerns implementing environmental control plans please call your local public health agency, or you may inquire with the State of Missouri COVID-19 Hotline at 877-435-8411.

Please review the links posted below from the CDC website regarding special events which has a lot of good reference information event planners can use as they are preparing for Octoberfest, etc. activities.

• https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/considerations-for-events-gatherings.html

• https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/event-planners-and-attendees-faq.html

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