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CDC Revises Guidelines, Saying Roughly 70% of Americans No Longer Need Masks

The CDC has updated it's modeling and guidance to account for natural immunity, vaccinations and natural treatments

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offered revised guidance that says just over 70% of Americans no longer need to wear a mask. 

The revised guidance on COVID-19, which incorporates federal data data hospitals, comes as an increasing number of places have already lifted mask requirements after a dramatic decline in cases following the Omicron surge. The revision illustrates one of the most significant shifts in the CDC’s COVID-19 guidance in months. The CDC said last year that even vaccinated individuals should wear masks. 

According to the CDC’s new framework, Americans in parts of the country deemed to have “low” levels of the disease, about 29.5% of the population, no longer need to wear masks indoors. Additionally, those in “medium” risk areas, about 42.2% of the population, should wear masks only if they are at increased risk of severe illness because they are immunocompromised or have pre-existing health concerns.

People in areas with a “high” level of COVID-19 cases, estimated at 28.2% of the population, should still wear masks.

“Communities can use these metrics, along with their own local metrics, such as wastewater surveillance, emergency department visits, and workforce capacity, to update and further inform their local policies,” the CDC’s Greta Massetti said in a press briefing on Friday.

While cases have slowed by more than 90% nationwide from the peak of the Omicron wave last month, the vast majority of counties were still considered high risk under the original metrics designed by the CDC. 

The risk calculations were designed before vaccinations, prior infections, and growing supplies of effective treatments for COVID-19 slowed the severity of the threat. 

“With widespread population immunity, the overall risk of severe disease is now generally lower,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “Now, as the virus continues to circulate in our communities, we must focus our metrics beyond just cases in the community and direct our efforts toward protecting people at high risk for severe illness, and preventing COVID-19 from overwhelming our hospitals.”

Walensky and Massetti said the new models would be updated weekly on a county-by-county basis across the U.S. The new models will give more significance to the rate of hospitalizations in a community rather than just the number of current infections.

The average number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals has dropped more than 60% from the records set during the Omicron surge over the winter months. 

Studies published by the CDC suggest patients were less likely to face severe illness with Omicron than the Delta variant for hospitalized patients. 

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