New CDC Guidance Ends Mask Recommendation for Most U.S. Counties

New CDC Guidance Ends Mask Recommendation for Most U.S. Counties


CDC director Rochelle Walensky on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 11, 2021 (Greg Nash/Reuters)

The CDC released updated guidance Friday that says that most U.S. counties do not qualify as “at-risk” areas for Covid-19 transmission and therefore can drop their mask requirements. 

Only 28 percent of people in the United States still live in at-risk regions where masking is urged in indoor settings. It’s not necessary for the rest of the over 70 percent of U.S. residents to wear masks, according to the new data. The CDC’s new notice is a significant reversal from its last advisory, which was responding to the rampant spread of the Omicron variant in recommending that about 99 percent of the population should mask indoors.

“This new framework moves beyond just looking at cases and test positivity, to evaluate factors that reflect the severity of disease — including hospitalizations and hospital capacity — and helps to determine whether the level of Covid-19 and severe disease are low, medium or high in a community,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters Friday.

“The Covid-19 community level we are releasing today will inform CDC recommendations on prevention measures, like masking, and CDC recommendations for layered prevention measures will depend on the Covid-19 level in the community,” she added. “This updated approach focuses on directing our prevention efforts towards protecting people at high risk for severe illness and preventing hospitals and health care systems from being overwhelmed.”

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