According To CDC Reports 2022: Americans may now be unmasked in many parts of the country
According To CDC Reports: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that it is easing its mask guidance for communities where hospitals are not under high stress. Under the new guidance, about 70% of the US population lives in a low- or medium-risk area, and residents there are advised to go indoors without a mask.
CDC recommends continued use of masks in communities where severe cases of COVID-19 are affecting the health system.
Federal officials say the move to ease masking reflects current conditions at this stage of the coronavirus pandemic, including improved access to vaccination and prior infection as well as testing and treatment.
“We want to give people a break from things like wearing masks,” CDC Director Rochelle Valensky said at a news briefing on Friday. But, she said, the new exposure guidelines the agency is implementing will help people know when to reach out for masks again if circumstances make it necessary. (according to CDC reports 2022)
Health officials emphasized that people should still wear face covers if they wish or are personally at high risk. And regardless of local circumstances, they must wear a mask if they have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19.
As part of the change, CDC is dropping its recommendation for universal school masking and will instead recommend masking only in communities with a high level of risk.
The agency’s new guidelines for assessing community risk, released Friday, show the proportion of hospitalizations for COVID-19 and beds occupied by COVID-19 patients in local hospitals exceeds the rate of new infections alone.
“As the virus continues to spread in our communities, we must focus our metrics beyond just cases in the community to protect those at high risk for serious illness and help our hospitals and our health care system fight COVID-19. should direct its efforts to stop,” Valensky said. (according to CDC reports 2022)
The agency has changed the way masks are applied several times during the pandemic. In May last year, it announced guidance that fully vaccinated people could safely stop wearing masks indoors, only to reverse that advice two months later as the delta version of the coronavirus grew and became a success. cases increased.
At the time, the CDC said indoor masking was advised in parts of the US with a “substantial” or “high” prevalence of the virus, which it defined as 50 to 100, or 100 or more, respectively. New weekly cases per 100,000 people. ,
Although cases in the country are declining rapidly, according to the CDC’s older risk metrics, currently about 95% of counties still see “substantial” or “high” levels of prevalence, which are primarily new cases. were based on. (according to CDC reports 2022)
Under the CDC’s new risk metrics, an area is considered “high” risk if it has levels of COVID-19 hospital admissions and hospital capacity taken up by COVID-19 patients.
About 38% of the U.S. Counties are in this new high-risk category where wearing masks is recommended, but these counties account for only 28% of the population.
Officials said the CDC will release updated county-by-county risk levels weekly on its website.
Many public health experts say the change in guidance makes sense in the context of declining case rates and the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines.
Dr. Ali Khan, a former CDC official and now dean at the University of Nebraska, says, “I think we are moving towards a practical strategy that recognizes that people who want to protect themselves have every tool. is available.” There are free vaccines, free masks, free tests and free antivirals.” Khan says it is now up to communities and individuals to take steps to protect themselves and those around them. (according to CDC reports 2022)
It makes sense for the CDC to have shared metrics to gauge risk, Khan says, “and then locally [for communities] to make decisions to relax mask guidelines based on local conditions: how much people are exposed to.” Well vaccinated, how many people are going to hospitals, what kind of absenteeism level do you have [among the hospital staff].”
The new risk levels give people a way to think about the pandemic as we move forward, says Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “I think it’s a good road map,” he says. “It gives us a way to move up or down the spectrum depending on what might change in the future, and most of us tend to think that we are still going to have recurring outbreaks of this disease in the community. ”
On the other hand, new risk metrics, which now include a combination of case levels, hospitalizations and hospital capacity, are not easy to understand, notes Dr. David Downey, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University.
“I’m always a little concerned when guidance becomes more complex instead of simple,” he says. “I understand both the cases and the willingness to include hospital admissions and maybe even hospital beds. But trying to come up with a formula with this kind of risk that people have This makes it difficult to actually implement this guidance in real time.”
He says that perhaps the emphasis could have been on new hospitalizations, which he calls “a very real-time indicator of when serious cases are starting to rise again.” (according to CDC reports 2022)
Still, he says, this is an opportune time to ease precautions like wearing masks in the pandemic.