In late February 2022, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) relaxed its mask guidance for communities where hospitals aren’t under high strain. The CDC announced its new COVID-19 Community Levels tool which is a way for communities to decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area. According to early news reports, nearly 70% of Americans live in communities with low or medium risk and are not advised to wear masks indoors.
The new guidelines for assessing community risk weighs hospitalizations for COVID-19 and the proportion of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients in local hospitals more heavily than rates of new infections alone. The CDC will release updated county-by-county risk levels weekly on its website. Unfortunately, the CDC does not release the underlying community data so that individuals can decide on their own. The CDC change comes at a time when many states are dropping mask mandates and people are becoming increasingly fatigued from mask-wearing. Recent studies and medical scholarship has also reached varying conclusions about the effectiveness of cloth masks under normal wear conditions.
Check your state and county here. In high-risk (orange) communities, the CDC Guidance recommends wearing a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status or individual risk.