controversial reverses

CDC reverses controversial coronavirus guidance that said people without symptoms may not need a test – CNBC

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), speaks during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2020.

Erin Scott | POOL | Reuters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reversed controversial coronavirus testing guidance that said people who were exposed to an infected person but weren’t showing any symptoms did “not necessarily need a test.”

The new guidance said that people without symptoms who have been in close contact with an infected person “need a test.” The CDC defines “close contact” as being within 6 feet of a person with a confirmed Covid-19 infection for at least 15 minutes.

“Please consult with your healthcare provider or public health official. Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the new guidance said. “Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, it is important that contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection be quickly identified and tested.”

Numerous studies have shown that people can carry and spread the virus without showing symptoms — both in the presymptomatic stage and in cases where they never develop symptoms. Public health specialists and officials at the World Health Organization have repeatedly emphasized the importance of testing people who don’t have symptoms in order to cut off chains off transmission. 

Many public health specialists criticized the CDC’s change in testing guidance in August for appearing to downplay the significance of testing people who don’t have symptoms but who might be spreading the virus. 

The CDC called the shift in guidance a “clarification” and noted the “the need to test asymptomatic persons.”

A health care worker use a nasal swab to test Eric Rodriguez for COVID-19 at a pop up testing site at the Koinonia Worship Center and Village on July 22, 2020 in Pembroke Park, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, which the CDC falls under, referred CNBC’s request for comment to the CDC.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, sought to clarify the old guidance last month, saying in a statement that “testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients,” but he stopped short of recommending it for those without symptoms. 

“Everyone who needs a COVID-19 test, can get a test. Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test; the key is to engage the needed public health community in the decision with the appropriate follow-up action,” Redfield said in the same statement last month, adding italics in the written statement for emphasis.

Redfield told lawmakers earlier this week that his clarification “didn’t solve the problem” and added that the agency was planning on updating the guidance this week and issuing a clearer clarification. He also said the guidance was “misinterpreted” and that “we were not trying to limit” testing.

“More tests actually can lead to less cases if testing is linked to public health action,” Redfield said Wednesday at the hearing hosted by the Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

The new guidance advised people awaiting test results to “self-quarantine/isolate at home and stay separated from household members to the extent possible and use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if available.”

The updated guidance also said that people who don’t have symptoms and who have not been exposed to an infected person “do not need a test unless recommended or required by your healthcare provider or public health official.” The previous guidance definitively said that such people do not need to be tested.

The updated guidance from the CDC comes amid heightened concerns of political intervention by the White House inside the nation’s premier health agencies, including the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration. At the center of such concerns is Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official who was appointed earlier this year as the top spokesman for HHS in a move seen by many to align public health messaging with that of the White House.

Caputo and his allies reportedly meddled with internal CDC affairs, including the publication of the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. Those serve as the main channel through which the CDC communicates with physicians and public health specialists across the country about trends and emerging health issues.

HHS announced earlier this week that Caputo will take a 60-day leave of absence. The agency also announced that one of Caputo’s allies, Paul Alexander, who reportedly tried to influence what White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said in media appearances, will leave HHS. 

The old CDC guidance, which was heavily criticized by health officials, including the former Director of the CDC Dr. Tom Frieden, was posted to the agency’s website in August despite objections from scientists within the CDC, The New York Times reported earlier this week, citing several people familiar with the matter as well as internal documents. 

“That was a doc that came from the top down, from the HHS and the task force,” a federal official with knowledge of the matter told the Times. “That policy does not reflect what many people at the CDC feel should be the policy.”

Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary for health at HHS who is in charge of the federal government’s testing efforts, defended the previous change in guidance last month on a conference call with reporters. He insisted that there was no “weight on the scales” from senior officials at HHS nor from the White House.

“Let me tell you, right up front that the new guidelines are a CDC action,” he said, adding that members of the White House coronavirus task force, including Fauci and Redfield, discussed and agreed on the new guidelines. 

But Fauci, who at the time was recovering from a vocal cord surgery, later said that he “was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations.”

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reverses Toronto

Toronto Film Fest Reverses Controversial Face Mask Policy – Hollywood Reporter

8:48 AM PDT 9/9/2020


Etan Vlessing

Toronto Film Festival - Getty - Embed -2src2src

Brian de Rivera Simon/Getty Images

The U-turn coincides with a surge in new coronavirus cases in Ontario and a social media backlash.

The Toronto Film Festival has changed its controversial policy on face masks in its theaters on the eve of its virtual 2020 edition.

TIFF will now require fest-goers to wear face coverings during all in-person movie viewing at its Bell Lightbox multiplex. Fest organizers cited a surge in new COVID-19 cases in Ontario for the U-turn on an earlier mask-optional policy that allowed fest-goers to decide if they wear a face covering “when seated in-cinema.”

The change of tack also follows The Hollywood Reporter on Sept. 8 reporting on TIFF’s mask optional policy for movie screenings, which had raised concerns, including on social media, for an increase in COVID-19 infections in the city.

“…Due to recent public health reports indicating that there has been an increase in COVID cases in the GTA, we have made the decision that for the safety, comfort and peace-of-mind of our audiences, TIFF Bell Lightbox will close its concession stands, thereby eliminating a point of contact for patrons,” the festival said in a statement on Tuesday night.

“As no food or beverage is being consumed, TIFF will require that audience members’ masks remain in place for the entirety of the time they are in TIFF Bell Lightbox,” TIFF added.

The festival’s reversal brings Toronto into line with the Venice Film Festival and additionally with major U.S. cinema chains that have mandated face masks during movie screenings, except when eating and sipping drinks, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

And TIFF is also conforming with Toronto City bylaws that has required the wearing of a face mask or covering in indoor public space.

  • Etan Vlessing

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Depot reverses

Home Depot reverses mask policy; will now have enforcement ‘captains’ in stores – KUOW News and Information

On Friday, Home Depot reversed its policy on requiring customers to wear masks in its stores.

Now, the box store chain will require customers nationwide to wear masks inside its stores starting on July 22.

Home Depot will have employees dedicated to customer compliance with that policy.

This announcement comes two days after a KUOW story revealed that Home Depot’s policy was to not enforce mask wearing, despite a state ordinance requiring otherwise.

“Social distancing captains” at Home Depot stores will ask customers without a face covering to wear one, said Margaret Smith, spokesperson for Home Depot. Those without masks will be provided one.

The KUOW report focused on a single Home Depot in Tukwila, south of Seattle. This store was not enforcing a mask mandate that called on businesses to refuse service to customers without a face covering. The law went into effect on July 7 as an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as cases locally are rising.

It wasn’t the only store, however. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries received about 50 complaints about Home Depot locations around the state within the last week, according to Tim Church, spokesperson for Labor and Industries.

Church said one complaint in particular reported that about 20 customers inside one Home Depot location were without a face covering. The department of Labor and Industries spoke with Home Depot leadership on Thursday, Church said.

“We made it perfectly clear that we expect them to protect the health and safety of workers,” Church said. “A big part of that is making sure customers are wearing masks when they come into the store.”

Church said that Home Depot appeared to be “committed to being cooperative” with the Washington state mask mandate from this point forward.

Home Depot will now take a different approach to Washington state customers who refuse to mask up while inside. Smith said that while it’s too dangerous to physically deny a customer entry, if a customer becomes combative or habitually refuses to comply and wear a mask, the stores will take further action, even trespassing them from entering Home Depot stores.

KUOW learned of Home Depot’s earlier policy not to require masks from a cashier who works at the Home Depot in Tukwila. He said he was told by management not to turn away service to any customers, and that employees were to only offer masks, not require them.

He showed KUOW an email that management sent him.

“We, as a company, are putting out the signs to mandate masks, but are only able to enforce with our associates,” the email said. “We are not to turn customers away or refuse service. We can offer them a mask if we see a customer without a mask, but again, we are not to address the mandate any further.”

Smith, the Home Depot spokesperson, confirmed this earlier policy of not requiring masks in an email to KUOW.

“Where they’re required by local mandate, we’re asking customers to wear masks in our stores through signage and announcements over our PA system,” Smith said. “We have not required stores to police local mandates, because it can be dangerous to put our associates in that position.”

Social media has been plastered with videos of customers reacting aggressively when confronted by employees for not wearing a mask at other businesses in the U.S. A man at a Kansas barbecue restaurant flashed a gun at an employee after he was asked to wear a mask inside last week.

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reverses Theaters

AMC Theaters reverses course on masks after backlash – Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The nation’s largest movie theater chain changed its position on mask-wearing less than a day after the company became a target on social media for saying it would defer to local governments on the issue.

AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron said Friday that its theaters will require patrons to wear masks upon reopening, which will begin in mid-July. Customers who don’t wear masks won’t be admitted or allowed to stay.

“We think it is absolutely crucial that we listen to our guests,” Aron said. “It is clear from this response that we did not go far enough on the usage of masks.”

Rival chain Regal followed AMC’s lead. Spokesman Richard Grover said Friday that moviegoers must wear masks in all its theaters as well.

AMC Theaters wasn’t the first to say it would defer to officials on the mask issue. That policy was identical to what Cinemark announced earlier this month. Cineplex Inc., which has a 75% box office market share in Canada, said they will leave it up to moviegoers to decide if they wear a face mask inside their theaters. Company spokeswoman Sarah Van Lange said they are taking the lead from public health authorities and provincial guidelines. She said employees will be required to wear masks.

Most major retailers require masks for customers only where local rules mandate it.

But the AMC plan hit a nerve for many on Thursday and #boycottAMC quickly became a trending topic on Twitter.

The outrage was further flamed by one of Aron’s comments in an interview with the Hollywood trade Variety that implied that taking a hard stance on mask-wearing was a political matter.

“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” Aron said. “We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary.”

He also said that he thought the “vast majority of AMC guests will be wearing masks” and that he planned to lead by example and would be wearing a mask himself.

The interview came on the same day that California started requiring people throughout the state to wear masks in most indoor settings and outdoors when distancing isn’t possible.

While public health officials say wearing a mask is important in helping stop the spread of COVID-19, not wearing one has become a political statement for people who say it violates their freedom or exaggerates the threat of the coronavirus. President Donald Trump has pushed back against masks, even as the virus has killed more than 100,000 Americans this year.

Full Coverage: Virus Outbreak

Earlier Friday, Alamo Drafthouse, which operates around 40 locations in the U.S. said that it would be requiring that guests wear masks at its theaters, with a caveat for eating and drinking. Those without masks, it said, would be given one. AMC plans to sell masks for $1.

Most indoor U.S. theaters have been closed since mid-March because of COVID-19. But both independent locations and major chains are readying to reopen within the next month.

AMC said it will open 450 of its U.S. locations on July 15, with the goal of having most of its theaters in operation by July 24 for the opening of Disney’s “Mulan” and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” the following week.


AP Business Writer Tali Arbel contributed from New York. Robert Gillies contributed from Toronto.

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reverses Starbucks

Starbucks reverses stance and allows staff to wear Black Lives Matter clothing – The Guardian

Starbucks said Friday that employees will be allowed to wear clothing and accessories in support of Black Lives Matter, responding to a backlash and boycott calls after the coffee chain banned staff …
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