CDC Loosens Mask Guidance for More Than Half of US Counties

CDC Loosens Mask Guidance for More Than Half of US Counties

Sarah Tew/CNET

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday changes to the way the agency gauges COVID-19 risk in communities, in a move that means lifting the masking recommendation for more than half of US counties. 

The CDC said that when determining a community’s risk level, the focus now will be on hospital capacity and the risk of severe disease, instead of on COVID-19 case counts. How many hospitalized patients a community has and how many available beds there are will now also inform whether a county is considered to be at “low, medium or high” risk of COVID-19.

People living in counties at a low or medium risk level don’t need to wear masks indoors, unless they choose to because they’re at high risk of disease, for example, or live with someone at high risk. 

The same mask guidance will also apply to schools. 

Until Friday, the CDC mask recommendation was that Americans living in counties with “substantial or high” COVID-19 transmission should wear a mask in indoor public spaces, which applied to the vast majority of the country, regardless of vaccination status.

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The public health agency’s move comes after many states and local governments have dropped their mask mandates, putting pressure on public health agencies. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are decreasing in the US and other countries, as the world climbs down from a record-breaking spike of COVID caused by the highly contagious omicron variant. Though the omicron variant causes less severe disease than delta, on average, it’s highly contagious and severe for some people. COVID-19 continues to cause hospitalizations and deaths. More than 945,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University data

In May, the CDC dropped the indoor mask recommendation for many fully vaccinated people in the US. Then in July, the agency recommended that Americans again wear masks indoors if they were living in communities with substantial or high COVID-19 transmission.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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