‘URGENT ALERT’: CDC urges mask use, social distancing ‘NOW’ amid COVID-19 surge

A woman wearing a mask and a cold weather jacket walks her dogs in New York City. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

As COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket across the country, the CDC posted an “urgent alert” tweet calling on people to wear a mask and follow other safety precautions to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

According to Johns Hopkins, the world had reported more than 56 million positive cases and 1.3 million deaths as of Nov. 19. In the United States alone, more than 11 million people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and more than 250,000 people had died.

The CDC’s tweet took on the toughest tone Americans have seen yet from the agency over the course of the pandemic. The CDC urged people to wear a mask, stay six feet away from each other, wash hands, and stay home if possible.

“COVID-19 is the most significant public health challenge our country’s faced in more than a century,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told reporters last month. “That is why it’s so important that all of us remain diligent in our efforts to defeat this virus and to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities.”

In a telebriefing held Thursday, the CDC warned against traveling to visit relatives and friends this Thanksgiving and holiday season and urged those with possible coronavirus symptoms or other illnesses to stay home.

“With Thanksgiving approaching our hearts and minds turn to visiting family and friends,” said Dr. Henry Walke, the agency’s COVID-19 incident manager. "Amid this critical phase, the CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period."

RELATED: CDC updates coronavirus Thanksgiving guidance, urges against travel

Walke added that for those who do decide to travel, the health agency recommends doing so "as safely as possible," which includes wearing a mask while in public, maintaining social distancing and washing hands often with soap and water.
The CDC also recommends that travelers consider whether someone they may see during their visit is at risk for severe illness, whether community spread is high where they live, or at their destination and if there are local quarantine requirements. If plans require bus, train or air travel, the agency said people should consider what social distancing measures will be implemented.

An updated version of the guidance was posted to the CDC website on Thursday. Citing the 1 million new cases of coronavirus reported in the U.S. last week, the agency said the safest way to mark Thanksgiving this year would be "to celebrate at home with the people you live with."

This story was reported from Los Angeles. FOX News contributed.