CDC Changes Mask Guidance Based on Local Risk Levels

This is broken down into counties that are either high, medium, or low level categories. Many areas of the US are able to go without masks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced its updated mask guidance based on the state county people live in and the incidence rates there.

CDC is now recommending people should only wear masks if the state county they live in is considered a "high" county. The agency has labeled this as the COVID-19 Community Level and has broken the individual counties into high, medium, and low levels.

The criteria takes into account the amount of cases, hospitalizations, and local hospital capacity. The emphasis is on trying to not overburden local areas and yet also acknowledge that it has been 2 years since the start of the pandemic next month.

Levels and Guidance

CDC is recommending the following for each of the levels:

  • People who live in what is considered a high county are advised to wear a mask indoors.
  • People who live in what is considered a medium county, and are at a high-risk for severe disease, are advised to talk with their provider about whether they need to wear a mask and take other precautions.
  • People who live in what is considered a low county do not need to wear a mask.

On the CDC's guidance page, there is a color-coded map of the US with the individual counties detailed in either shades of orange (high levels), yellow (medium levels), or green (low levels) to illustrate where people live and what mask guidance is recommended.

Yesterday, CDC Director Rochelle Wallensky, MD, made it clear they are trying to balance public health needs with the public’s desire to get back to some sort of normalcy.

“Community metrics help determine when & where to reach for extra precautions, like masks and testing,” She tweeted.

“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,” she wrote in another tweet.

Cases have been decreasing significantly over the last few weeks, and there was a significant drop in the most recent weekly accounting for new cases. “As of February 16, 2022, the current 7-day moving average of daily new cases (121,665) decreased 43.0% compared with the previous 7-day moving average (213,625),” the CDC reported on its website.