Mask-wearing recommendations have been loosened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Currently, with 70% of the nation residing in low- or medium-risk counties, only individuals in high-risk areas are recommended to wear masks in indoor settings.
COVID-19 Community Levels can be used to determine the risk level in a community. There are three levels: low, medium, and high. These levels are calculated based on the number of hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and new COVID-19 cases in the area. The CDC recommends different masking practices based upon the risk level.
- Low: individuals may wear a mask based on personal preference and personal risk level.
- Medium: Those who are immunocompromised or at high risk of severe illness should wear a mask indoors and should speak to their primary healthcare providers about additional precautions. Additionally, those who live with or have contact with someone at high risk should get tested before gathering in-person and should mask when in an indoor setting together.
- High: All individuals should wear well-fitting masks in an indoor public setting. Those who are immunocompromised or at high risk of serious illness should wear a mask or respirator that offers greater protection than the standard option.
The CDC’s new mask guidelines extend to K-12 schools as well. Schools in low- or medium-risk counties no longer need to enforce masking policies on students and staff. Prior to this update, universal indoor masking in educational settings was recommended by the CDC.
While masking requirements have loosened, individuals who prefer to wear masks may continue to do so. Those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, those who have tested positive, or anyone exposed to someone with COVID-19 should continue to mask. Special consideration should be taken when meeting with people at high risk for severe illness, children, or people with disabilities.
It is important to remember that the pandemic is constantly evolving, and this guidance is subject to change at any time.