NOAA Staff Directed Not to Discuss COVID-19

On around June 22, 2020, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Marine Fisheries Service issued guidelines to staff on how to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidelines, which are labelled for "internal" use only, outline 3 options for discussing the pandemic as follows:

  • Option 1 or the "preferred approach" is for staff to "[m]ake no reference to anything COVID related" including "stay-at-home orders" and "travel restrictions."
  • Option 2 is for staff to use "approved sentences and phrases" that "discuss the current situation" in "general terms" but do not expressly mention "COVID" or "pandemic." Any changes to the approved sentences, "even minor ones," require pre-approval.
  • Option 3 is for staff to make "limited direct mention of COVID or pandemic," but this option should only "be used on an extremely limited basis," and requires pre-approval. 

The guidelines indicate that "[a]ny reference to COVID-19, the pandemic, or similar references in documents that are publicly available . . . require pre-approval from Sam Rauch," the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs.