The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has changed the metrics it uses to determine “high risk” localities in the United States and as a result, now says that almost three-fourths of Americans no longer need to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Previously, the agency only used hospitalizations as a factor to determine if a county or state was “high risk” and is now taking other data into consideration, such as hospitalization.
“This updated approach focuses on directing our prevention efforts toward protecting people at high risk for severe ailments and preventing hospitals and healthcare systems from being overwhelmed,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters, according to The Epoch Times.
She explained that the agency “came up with these indicators, including new hospital admissions and hospital beds utilized, and complimented them with case incidents to really create a package of metrics to be able to understand what’s happening at the local level.”
The CDC will still count all hospitalizations, including those who test positive for COVID-19 after being admitted with other medical issues.
The prior guidance used to determine the advisability of mask mandates had not been changed since 2020.
Previously, counties were considered at substantial risk if they had just 50 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the previous 7 days, the Times notes, with high risk being determined by 100 new cases per 100,000 in the same period.
This subject over 95% of the country to being labeled substantial or high risk as recently as February 25.
With the change, which came Friday, now just 37% of U.S. counties are considered high risk.
These counties, home to 28.2% of U.S. residents, are still advised to wear a mask in indoor settings.
Walensky also noted that anyone can still wear masks if they feel more comfortable doing so.
In early February, Walensky hinted that the agency might soon be changing its guidance on mask wearing.
“We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing, when these metrics are better, and then have the ability to reach for them again should things worsen,” she said at the time.
The effectiveness of masks to prevent the spread of viruses has been a hotly debated issue throughout the pandemic, although the CDC has remained firm that they are a reliable way to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
“Federal health officials say masks are effective at preventing COVID-19 transmission, pointing primarily to studies the CDC has published in its quasi-journal. One such paper, published Feb. 4, relied on self-reporting and found no statistically significant benefit for wearing cloth masks,” the Times notes. “Critics say the studies don’t support mask-wearing, especially wearing cloth masks.”
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