The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reviewing policy to give Americans a break from mask-wearing. Two years into the pandemic, the agency would like to shift its focus to hospitalizations as the key factor for policymaking. This development is according to CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
CDC To Relax Policies Requiring Mask-Wearing
During a White House COVID public update, Walensky spoke about the CDC’s policy shift. “We must consider hospital capacity as an additional important barometer.
We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing when these metrics are better,” she said. The CDC director also wants the CDC to have the ability to revisit policy should things worsen.
Currently, the CDC recommends that Americans practice mask-wearing in indoor places regardless of vaccination status. This is especially important when people live in areas with high COVID infection rates.
Unfortunately, nearly every US county has high COVID transmission rates. Therefore, federal law requires mask-wearing to Americans using public transportation.
States Easing Up On Mask-Wearing
However, individual states already started easing up on public health measures as Omicron cases declined from their peak levels last month.
Even Democratic states started dropping mask mandates. New York and California already removed mask-wearing requirements for businesses. Meanwhile, New Jersey also relaxed mask-wearing rules for their schools.
Meanwhile, White House COVID response coordinator Jeff Zients said that the administration is closely coordinating with state governors.
They are also meeting with public health experts and business leaders in finalizing plans as COVID cases continue to drop.
“We’re moving toward a time when COVID isn’t a crisis, but it’s something we can protect against and treat. The president and our COVID team are actively planning for the future,” he added.
US COVID Cases Down By 83%
Last Tuesday, US COVID cases reported an average of 138,000 new cases per day over the last week. This is 83% lower than the peak of 800,000 cases a day last January 15.
This is according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. In addition, nearly all states and Washington DC are reporting declines in new infections.
According to seven-day average data from the Department of Health and Human Services, hospitalizations are going down too. Today, about 85,000 COVID patients are in hospitals. This is way below the January 20 peak of nearly 160,000.
With Fewer Cases, Americans Will Become More Comfortable Taking Off Their Masks
“As we have fewer cases, people will become more comfortable with taking off their mask,” Walensky said. However “we will certainly want people to have the flexibility to wear one if they so choose,” she added.
Regardless of community transmission levels, Walensky said that Americans should wear a mask for 10 days if they were previously diagnosed with COVID.
The CDC also noted that Omicron spreads faster than past variants. However, it doesn’t make people as sick as the delta or alpha strains in general.
While cases rose to record highs, hospitalizations and deaths did not increase with Omicron. Nevertheless, hospitals had to remain on high alert as the variant can cause severe symptoms in unvaccinated patients.
Watch the ABC News video reporting that the CDC prepares to update mask guidance:
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