The CDC Mask Guidelines Just Majorly Changed


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Friday that it will ease
COVID-19 mask mandates for most Americans. The CDC mask guidelines will now involve a new three-level, color-coded risk system that will determine whether masks are required in a given community.

“With widespread population immunity, the overall risk of severe disease is now generally lower,” Rochelle Walensky, M.D., director of the CDC said during a press conference. In low-risk areas (green), masks are not needed; in medium-risk areas (yellow), individuals vulnerable to COVID-19 complications might need to wear masks and are advised to consult their doctor; and in high-risk areas (red), masks should be worn. High-risk areas still include schools, and mask-wearing is still recommended for those who are immunocompromised under this latest guidance. (If this new system sounds complicated, it will come as a relief to know that CDC will be developing an online tool that will help people quickly determine which level of risk their area falls under.)

The designated risk is coded based on the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in a given area. Around 70% of people in the U.S. are based in areas where hospitals are not considered to be “overwhelmed” by COVID-19 hospitalizations, meaning that most of the U.S. will no longer be required to wear masks, CNN reports.

When the CDC outlined their previous mask mandates, local infection rate was the main metric that informed their decision-making process. With this latest announcement, the metric has shifted to focus on hospitalization rates and hospital capacity. “This updated approach focuses on directing our prevention efforts towards protecting people of high risk for severe illness and preventing hospitals and health care systems from being overwhelmed,” Dr. Walensky said.

The news comes as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to decline. On February 23, the CDC’s seven-day moving average of new cases was 75,208, which holds a stark comparison to the numbers from a month prior (January 23), when the seven-day moving average of new cases had spiked to 686,316. The CDC’s announcement to ease mask mandates also comes after President Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, M.D., announced it might be time the country began moving towards normality, as SELF previously reported. However, Dr. Fauci was also quick to acknowledge that there was no “perfect solution” to this situation.

“The fact that the world and the United States—and particularly certain parts of the United States—are just up to here with COVID—they just really need to somehow get their life back,” Dr. Fauci, who is also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with Reuters last week. “You don’t want to be reckless and throw everything aside, but you’ve got to start inching towards that.” The new CDC mask guidelines seem to echo that sentiment.


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