Is the unmasking of America at hand?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that most Americans can now shed their face coverings in indoor public settings because the agency has changed how it measures the threat of coronavirus in local communities.
Until now, COVID-19 case counts have been the primary metric used to determine whether mask-wearing was recommended in a community. That meant that roughly 95% of U.S. counties fell into the “mask up” category.
Inside the new guidelines
But the new guidelines also weigh hospitalizations and local hospital capacity, which have improved greatly since the Omicron variant first surfaced in the United States last December. The highly contagious variant has been less severe than earlier versions of the virus, particularly for people who are fully vaccinated and boosted.
Under the new recommendations, more than 70% of Americans now live in areas where masking in public indoor settings is no longer advised, according to the CDC.
Americans also now have a special CDC website where they can find out on their own whether mask-wearing is still recommended in their counties.
“Our new framework was rigorously evaluated, both with current data and retrospectively during the Alpha, Delta and Omicron waves, and these new metrics have demonstrative predictive capacity for weeks into the future,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during an afternoon media briefing on the new COVID calculations.
“This new framework will provide the best way for us to judge what level of preventive measures may be needed in our communities,” she added. “If or when new variants emerge or the virus surges, we have more ways to control the virus and