Covid US: CDC to lift mask recommendations for 70% of Americans under revised guidelines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will lift mask recommendations for 70% of Americans, the agency announced Friday afternoon.
The agency has revised the calculations that determine whether an area is at ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’ risk from Covid. Previously, only the infection rate was taken into account, whereas now the hospitalization rate and hospital capacity will be the most appreciated measures.
Under the measures currently installed, only five percent of US counties are not under a mask recommendation by federal regulators.
Since the main purpose of pandemic mandates is to avoid overwhelming health care systems, assessing hospital capacity and acute Covid rates is most important, CDC officials explained.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the agency, said the move helps Americans feel safe dropping masks and other restrictions for now, when Covid isn’t as much of a threat as it is. was in the past.
It also leaves the door open for officials to bring back masks and other restrictions in the future at a time when the pandemic situation becomes more serious, without overreacting to an increase in mild cases.
The CDC’s revised guidelines increased the number of US counties considered to be at “high” or “substantial” risk to 30% (right) from 95% (left). The first map depicts the country’s counties as originally calculated, while the second is the revised version unveiled by the CDC on Friday afternoon.
The CDC ranks its recommendations for people to live safely with Covid based on their level of risk judged by their county
“Now that the virus continues to circulate in our community, who needs to focus our measures beyond just cases in the community and direct our efforts towards protecting those at high risk of serious illness and preventing COVID-19 from overwhelming our hospitals and our health care system,” Dr. Walensky explained at a press conference on Friday.
Dr Rochelle Walensky (pictured) announced on Friday that the CDC would change its calculations of risk levels in each US county to now include – and value – hospitalization rates and hospital capacity
According to revised calculations, only 28.2% of the US population — living in 37% of counties — are still recommended to mask up in indoor and public settings.
These counties are scattered across America, but include the entire state of West Virginia and much of its neighbor Kentucky. Oregon and Montana also have large parts of the state classified as “high” risk.
Just under 30% of Americans live in a “low” risk area, with 39.6% of Americans at “medium” risk of Covid in their communities.
The “substantial” categorization has been removed, apparently associated with high.
While state and county level officials still have the authority to set mandates and regulations for their own jurisdiction, many, especially in blue states, generally follow CDC guidelines when making such decisions.
For areas considered low risk, the CDC only recommends people get vaccinated, but otherwise they can safely live their normal lives.
A person living in a place known to be medium risk can also live normally, unless they are immunocompromised or have other serious comorbidities, in which they should mask up in public places and talk to their doctor about other potential decisions to protect.
People in high-risk areas should wear a mask in all indoor public places, including schools.
The change comes as Covid cases, deaths and hospitalizations in the country crater. Omicron is also the mildest but most infectious variant to date, meaning the high case numbers during this surge are not as dangerous as they were in previous ones.
75,549 people register a Covid infection in America every day. This is a drop of 35% over the past week and 92% since the Omicron surge peaked at 800,000 cases a day in mid-January.
Deaths are finally starting to drop as well. On average, 1,742 Americans die daily from Covid, down 20% over the past seven days and down 30% for the peak of the Omicron surge when around 2,500 Americans succumbed to the virus daily.
Hospitalizations are generally an unreliable measure. Studies have shown that 25-50% of recorded hospitalizations for COVID-19 are actually people who were receiving treatment for another disease but tested positive while present.
This poses a problem for the CDC’s new measurements, however, because one of the key numbers in their new measurement isn’t very reliable.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about it,” Walensky said of the potentially incorrect numbers.
“Many jurisdictions cannot differentiate [between people who are hospitalized for Covid or for another reason]it was important for us to recognize
‘Secondly, whether or not a patient is admitted with Covid or four Covids, they increase hospital capacity and they require a lot of resources [patients]. They need an isolation bed. They need PPE, they probably need a higher staff ratio.
The updated numbers come at a time when many states were planning to “return to normal” anyway.
Every US state, except Hawaii, has either relaxed its mask restrictions or set a future date to do so. Even though the CDC refused to budge on masks until Friday, state and county officials decided to take matters into their own hands as cases fell.
Walensky notes that the change also opens the door for masks to return in the future.
The agency, which works in good faith to remove masks when the virus isn’t as dangerous, as it is right now, allows officials “to reach out to them again if things get worse in the future,” said Walensky.
Isolation and masking at home when a household member is infected with Covid can reduce the risk of transmission by 50%
CDC study released Feb. 25 finds Americans should self-isolate and mask up at home after household member tests positive for COVID-19
In a study that included Americans from Chicago, Connecticut, Utah and Wisconsin, they found household transmission risk levels were nearly 33% lower when people took precautions.
Boosted and fully vaccinated people who lived with an infected person were less than 45% likely to contract the virus, compared to 64% of unvaccinated people
When the infected person in the household isolated themselves, there was only a 41% chance of transmission, compared to 68% for households that did not isolate the infected person
Mask-wearing at home was also effective, with those who did not use a mask 69% likely to spread the virus, compared to 40% for those who used face coverings at home
Researchers believe that taking precautions even after a close contact is infected can still prevent infection. Americans are advised to do everything possible to prevent transmission of the virus.