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CDC director: We want to give people 'a break' from mask wearing when metrics improve

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said that although the agency is not changing mask guidance just yet, it is reviewing its recommendations and shifting its focus toward hospitalizations as a key metric for determining tighter pandemic protocols, CNBC reported Wednesday. 

"We must consider hospital capacity as an additional important barometer," Walensky said during a Wednesday COVID-19 response briefing. "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." 

The agency recommends people in areas with high viral transmission wear masks regardless of vaccination status. "Nearly every county in the U.S. has high transmission right now," CNBC reports, citing CDC data.

Still, the CDC is may loosen indoor masking guidelines "as early as next week," NBC News reported Wednesday, citing individuals familiar with the matter. 

The White House has, as of late, been hoping for an update to the CDC's indoor guidelines but did not want to put pressure on the agency, NBC News notes.

Meanwhile, several Democratic governors have already gone ahead and announced plans to lift mask mandates, beating the federal government to the punch.