- Up to 70% of the US population can take off their masks according to new CDC guidance.
- The agency relaxed mask recommendations for counties with low and medium levels of COVID-19.
- The new guidance reflects the CDC’s narrower focus on minimizing severe disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed mask guidelines for up to 70% of the US population, or 63% of US counties, on Friday.
Counties with low and medium levels of COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks in public, the agency said — though people with an increased risk of severe COVID-19, such as immunocompromised people, should talk to their healthcare providers about removing masks if they live in a medium-level county. Counties with high levels of COVID-19 — 37% of US counties right now — still require masks in indoor public settings, including schools, according to the CDC.
The agency still recommends that everyone get vaccinated and boosted, if they haven’t already, and test themselves if they feel sick. People with COVID-19 symptoms, a positive COVID-19 test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should continue to mask up, regardless of transmission in their area, the CDC said.
The map below shows where your county sits on the CDC’s new scale. Counties with low levels of COVID-19 are marked in green, and encompass 30% of US residents. Counties with medium levels are in yellow, and include 42% of US residents. Counties with high levels are in orange, and include 28% of US residents.
The new recommendations reflect the CDC’s narrower focus on minimizing severe disease, limiting strain on hospitals, and protecting the most vulnerable individuals.
“The overall risk of severe disease is now generally lower,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a Friday press briefing. “Now, as the virus continues to circulate in our communities, we must focus our metrics beyond just cases in the community.”
Green counties must have fewer than 200 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, fewer than 10 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 residents, and fewer than 10% of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, on average, within the last week.
Here’s how those metrics compare to yellow and orange counties.
Masking is still an option for people in areas with low or medium levels of COVID-19, the CDC added, particularly if they live with someone who is at high risk of severe disease.
The guidance is also subject to change, Walensky said on Friday.
“None of us know what the future may hold for us and for this virus,” she said. “We need to be prepared and we need to be ready for whatever comes next. We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing when our levels are low and then have the ability to reach for them again, should things get worse in the future.”