Coronavirus Coronavirus [CoV]

Public Health Communicators: Get Your Community Ready

This interim guidance is intended for state and local public health information officers, health communication specialists, health educators, and other public health professionals responsible for planning communication strategies before, during, and after an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This guidance provides information about nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) and their use during a COVID-19 outbreak. NPIs are…

This interim guidance is intended for state and local public health information officers, health communication specialists, health educators, and other public health professionals responsible for planning communication strategies before, during, and after an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

This guidance provides information about nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) and their use during a COVID-19 outbreak. NPIs are actions, apart from getting vaccinated and taking antiviral medications, that people and communities can take to help slow the spread of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.

COVID-19 is an emerging disease and there is more to learn about its transmission, severity, and how it will take shape in the United States. Everyone can do their part to help plan, prepare, and respond to this emerging public health threat.

CDC has developed recommendations for how to communicate with people in your community about a COVID-19 outbreak. The Before, During, and After sections of this guide offer suggested strategies to help you plan for and implement these recommendations.

This interim guidance is intended for state and local public health information officers, health communication specialists, health educators, and other public health professionals responsible for planning communication strategies before, during, and after an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

This guidance provides information about nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) and their use during a COVID-19 outbreak. NPIs are actions, apart from getting vaccinated and taking antiviral medications, that people and communities can take to help slow the spread of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.

COVID-19 is an emerging disease and there is more to learn about its transmission, severity, and how it will take shape in the United States. Everyone can do their part to help plan, prepare, and respond to this emerging public health threat.

CDC has developed recommendations for how to communicate with people in your community about a COVID-19 outbreak. The Before, During, and After sections of this guide offer suggested strategies to help you plan for and implement these recommendations.

Become familiar with key COVID-19 prevention messages and NPI recommendations

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Read and understand “Everyday Preventive Actions”. This list identifies personal health habits that people should use all the time, including to help protect themselves and their families against COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

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Read and understand CDC’s audience-specific COVID-19 NPI guidance documents and communication materials. Tailored guidance and resources addressing COVID-19 planning are available for individuals and communities.

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Take CDC’s NPI 101 Web-based training. State, tribal, local, and territorial public health officials can complete an interactive course (developed by CDC for pandemic influenza preparedness) to increase their understanding of NPIs and how to plan for the use of NPIs before, during, and after a pandemic to help slow spread of disease. The NPI trainingexternal icon is applicable to COVID-19. Register for “NPI 101” External on CDC TRAIN. The following free CE credits are provided: 0.2 CEU/CE, 1.5 CHES, 1.75 CME, 1.5 CNE Contact Hours, and 2 CPHCE.

Update your existing emergency communication plan

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Meet with your existing emergency planning and operations team to update the emergency communication plan for your state or local community.

  • Review all aspects of your plan, such as staffing, communication strategies, trainings, tools, policies, equipment, systems and procedures for clearing and approving information, and other resources.
  • Develop or update your plan based on various scenarios your state or local community may face during a COVID-19 outbreak.

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Establish systems for sharing information with key partners and stakeholders.

  • Identify everyone in your chain of communication (e.g., new and existing partners and stakeholders, others in your own agency, and other health departments), and create or update a comprehensive contact list.
  • Maintain up-to-date primary and secondary contact information for everyone in the chain.
  • Determine when and what type of information to share with those in your communication chain.
  • Identify platforms, such as a hotline, automated text messaging, email, social media, and a website, to help disseminate information to internal and external partners and audiences.

Assess procedures and technology resources needed for timely communication during a COVID-19 outbreak

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Review, exercise, and update communication policies, procedures, and systems for updating, clearing, approving, and disseminating information (both internally and externally).

  • Make sure information is accurate and consistent during an emergency and flows promptly and frequently to the correct audiences.
  • Review your system for tracking and responding to inquiries received from the public, partners, and stakeholders.

Note: Communication after-action reports and improvement plans (AARs/IPs) from recent public health emergency responses can offer practical and helpful insights.

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Identify existing and needed technology resources.

  • Assess and update the availability of technology and equipment, such as mobile phones, computers, internet access, and wireless devices, so they are ready for immediate use.
  • If needed resources do not exist inside your organization, create a plan for acquiring them or identify sources from which you can access technology during a COVID-19 outbreak.

Monitor and evaluate your efforts, and change communications as needed

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Monitor all media sources.

  • Use a variety of media channels to address misinformation and gather feedback about the response.

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Implement actions outlined in your evaluation plan.

  • Document communication activities that have and have not happened. Explain why activities did not occur or were changed during implementation.

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