The CDC is expected to loosen its mask-wearing guidance on Friday by lessening its reliance on Covid-19 caseloads in determining whether Americans should mask up in favor of a broader approach to determining risk, according to a new report.
Masks are currently recommended for people in 95 percent of U.S. counties based on caseloads, as they have been designated areas of “substantial or high transmission” by the CDC.
However, the CDC is expected to change the metrics it uses to determine whether to recommend face coverings to take into account not only case counts, but also hospitalizations and local hospital capacity, two people familiar with the matter reportedly told the Associated Press.
The change would mean most Americans would no longer be advised to wear masks in indoor public settings based on current data, according to the AP.
The policy comes as many states have moved to lift their mask mandates in recent weeks as a surge of cases caused by the Omicron variant has subsided. The U.S. is reporting some 84,000 new Covid-19 cases each day on average, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Cases have fallen 90 percent since January 15, when the U.S. recorded a high of more than 800,000 daily cases.
The report comes after CDC director Rochelle Walensky said last week that the agency is reviewing its mask guidance and shifting its focus to hospitalizations as a measure of outbreak severity.
“We must consider hospital capacity as an additional important barometer,” Walensky told the public during a White House Covid update February 16. “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.
White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said last week that the country is “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 said during a briefing.