County recommends postponement, cancellation of mass gatherings amid COVID-19 epidemic

The following advisory was issued by the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Health Department.

In accordance with gubernatorial actionBurlington County Coronavirus Task Force, led by Health Department Director Dr. Herb Conaway announced organizations in the county should cancel or postpone mass gatherings of more than 250 people and for organizations that serve high-risk populations, cancel gatherings of more than 10 people.

This recommendation is based upon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Organizations may choose to cancel smaller gatherings depending upon their communities and their populations.

“While we have not documented community transmissions here in Burlington County yet, we wish to be proactive in preventing the spread within the county.” stated Conaway.

The CDC has issued guidelines for implementation of mitigation strategies for communities with local COVID-19 transmission. The goal of the mitigation strategies is to slow the transmission in the community. The document can be found at the CDC website by visiting CDC.gov/Coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community-mitigation-strategy.pdf

“Using these strategies, we are making the following recommendations regarding mass gatherings and community activities,” said Conaway. “There are specific guidelines for the individuals and families at home, schools/childcare, assisted living, senior living facilities, adult day programs, workplace, healthcare settings, community and faith-based organizations.”

According to the CDC Guidelines:

Things to consider:

  • These are recommendations and not mandates. Each community is unique, and appropriate mitigation strategies will vary based on the characteristics of each community and their populations.
  • Examine all aspects of the community including populations most vulnerable to severe illness and those that may be more impacted socially and economically.

Who is considered high-risk?

According to the CDC and early information from China where COVID-19 first started, some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:

  • Older adults
  • People who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease.

For more information about high risk populations, please visit (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html) 

Recommendations for Individuals and Families:

  • Continue to monitor local information about COVID-19 in your community.
  • Continue to practice personal protective measures such has hand washing and staying home when ill.
  • Individuals at increased risk of severe illness should consider staying at home and avoiding gatherings or other situations of potential exposures, including travel.

Recommendations for Schools and Childcare Facilities

  • Implement social distancing measures: Cancel large gatherings (e.g., assemblies) and limit the number of attendees per gathering.
  • Alter schedules to reduce mixing (e.g., stagger recess, entry/dismissal times).
  • Cancel school trips.
  • Make preparations for remote education to include those with special educational or medical needs.
  • Make preparations to deliver school meal programs in the event of school closure.
  • Consider regular health checks (e.g., temperature and respiratory symptom screening) of students, staff and visitors (if feasible).
  • Short-term dismissals for school and extracurricular activities as needed (e.g., if cases in staff/students) for cleaning and contact tracing.
  • Students at increased risk of severe illness should consider implementing individual plans for distance learning, e-learning.

Recommendations for pregnant and nursing women:

  • According to the CDC, there is not currently information from published scientific reports about susceptibility of pregnant women to COVID-19. Pregnant women experience immunologic and physiologic changes, which might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19. For more information about COVID-19 and pregnancy, please visit (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/pregnancy-faq.html)

Recommendations for assisted living, senior living and adult day programs:

  • Implement social distancing measures: Cancel large gatherings (e.g., group social events).
  • Alter schedules to reduce mixing (e.g., stagger meal, activity, arrival/departure times).
  • Limit programs with external staff.
  • Consider having residents stay in facility and limit exposure to the general community.
  • Limit visitors and implement screening.
  • Temperature and respiratory symptom screening of attendees, staff and visitors.
  • Short-term closures as needed (e.g., if cases in staff, residents or clients who live elsewhere) for cleaning and contact tracing.

Recommendations for workplace:

  • Encourage staff to telework (when feasible), particularly individuals at increased risk of severe illness.
  • Implement social distancing measures: Increasing physical space between workers at the worksite.
  • Staggering work schedules.
  • Decreasing social contacts in the workplace (e.g., limit in-person meetings, meeting for lunch in a break room, etc.).
  • Limit large work-related gatherings (e.g., staff meetings, after-work functions).
  • Limit non-essential work travel.
  • Consider regular health checks (e.g., temperature and respiratory symptom screening) of staff and visitors entering buildings (if feasible).

Recommendations for healthcare settings:

  • Implement changes to visitor policies to further limit exposures to Health Care Providers (HCP), residents and patients. Changes could include temperature/symptom checks for visitors, limiting visitor movement in the facility, etc.
  • Implement triage before entering facilities (e.g., parking lot triage, front door), phone triage and tele-medicine to limit unnecessary healthcare visits.
  • Actively monitor absenteeism and respiratory illness among HCP and patients.
  • Actively monitor Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies.
  • Establish processes to evaluate and test large numbers of patients and HCP with respiratory symptoms (e.g., designated clinic, surge tent).
  • Consider allowing asymptomatic exposed HCP to work while wearing a face mask.
  • Begin to cross train HCP for working in other units in anticipation of staffing shortages. 

Recommendations for community and faith-based organizations.

  • Implement social distancing measures:
    • Reduce activities (e.g., group congregation, religious services), especially for organizations with individuals at increased risk of severe illness.
    • Consider offering video/audio of events.
  • Determine ways to continue providing support services to individuals at increased risk of severe disease (services, meals, checking in) while limiting group settings and exposures.
  • Cancel large gatherings (e.g., >250 people, though threshold is at the discretion of the community) or move to smaller groupings.
  • For organizations that serve high-risk populations, cancel gatherings of more than 10 people.