Update 3:45 p.m. EST Feb. 25: The CDC announced that 70% of people in the U.S. will be able to get rid of their masks while inside, including schools, ABC News reported.
Officials said the change is in response to the phase of the pandemic we’re in, NPR reported. That there’s been an increase in immunity through vaccination and prior infection as well as access to treatment and testing.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “We are in a stronger place today as a nation to protect communities from Covid-19,” Independent reported.
“We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing when risks are low,” she added.
Walensky also reminded that if cases climb, the advisements can change, Independent reported.
The CDC said that areas that are at low or medium risk are based on the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, hospital capacity and new cases.
The organization will allow people to check their area’s metrics on the CDC website.
Those who live in low-level areas will be able to not wear masks indoors. People living in medium-level areas should talk to their doctor about masking indoors. High-level residents should wear masks inside, CNN reported.
The CDC advised that those who still want to wear a mask, or who are at personal high risk, should wear one no matter where they live, CNN reported.
This is not the first time the CDC has changed its masking guidelines. Last May, it said people who were fully vaccinated didn’t have to wear one indoors. The group then changed the advisory two months later when the delta variant took hold and breakthrough cases rose, NPR reported.
A loosening of restrictions means that most Americans will no longer be advised to wear masks in indoor settings, according to the news organization.
The new metrics will allow the U.S. to move into the next phase of the pandemic by considering caseloads, hospitalizations and hospital capacity, the AP reported.
Case numbers have been significantly lower during the emergence of the omicron variant, the news outlet reported. While the strain is highly transmissible, it is apparently less severe than earlier strains.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has said the agency was updating the guidance.
“Moving forward, our approach will advise enhanced prevention efforts in communities with a high volume of severe illness and will also focus on protecting our healthcare systems from being overwhelmed,” Walensky tweeted Thursday.
Walensky has cautioned, though, that there will not be a “date certain” that will signal the end of the pandemic, ABC News reported.
“I think we’re gonna tiptoe out of this and that we will very gradually, one day, realize in retrospect we’re no longer in this anymore, or at least in it the way we have been for the last two years,” Walensky said during a podcast interview Tuesday.
Many states and some companies that had mask-wearing mandates in place have allowed them to lapse as cases have fallen nationwide, the AP reported.
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