CDC eases mask guidelines: 6 things to know

The CDC relaxed indoor mask guidance Feb. 25, now relying on a framework in which a community falls in one of three categories based on how COVID-19 is affecting its healthcare system.

Here are 6 things to know about the update:

1. "A community's COVID-19 level is determined by a combination of three pieces of information: new hospitalizations for COVID-19, current hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients or hospital capacity, and new COVID-19 cases," Greta Massetti, PhD, of the CDC's COVID-19 response incident management team, said during a Feb. 25. news conference. 

2. Low: The virus is having a limited effect on the community's healthcare system, with low levels of severe disease. For places in this category, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated as well as a booster shot along with testing when sick. 

3. Medium: These communities have more people with severe disease and are beginning to see an increase in how much COVID-19 is affecting their healthcare system. In addition to the above measures, the CDC recommends at-risk people in medium-level counties talk to their providers about extra precautions, such as mask wearing.

4. High: There is a high level of severe disease in these communities and a high potential for their healthcare systems to become strained. The CDC recommends everyone in these communities wear a mask indoors and in schools in addition to the precautions at the low and medium levels. 

5. About half of U.S. counties, representing nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population, were in the low or medium COVID-19 community category as of Feb. 25, CDC officials said. 

6. "I personally will continue to wear a mask in most indoor public settings, and I urge all Americans to consider doing the same, especially in places like pharmacies, grocery stores, on public transportation — locations all of us, regardless of vaccination status or risk factors, must visit regularly," American Medical Association President Gerald Harmon, MD, said in a Feb. 25 statement.

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