The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has eased its mask guidance for the majority of Americans in light of declining COVID-19 cases.
The CDC said Friday that in counties classified as having a "COVID-19 community level" of low or medium, it's safe not to wear masks indoors, including in schools, and this applies to about 70 percent of Americans, according to NBC News. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the move could be made because the U.S. is in a "stronger place today as a nation" in the pandemic with "more tools to protect ourselves."
Under the CDC's new guidelines, those who live in areas of the country with a high COVID-19 community level are still advised to wear masks indoors, and this is true of about 28 percent of Americans, according to Stat News. But the new system takes multiple factors into account to decide whether a community's COVID-19 risk is low, medium, or high, including hospital admissions. Those who don't live in "high" areas, but who are at high risk of severe illness themselves, should "talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions," the CDC said.
The CDC was previously recommending about 99 percent of the U.S. population continue to wear masks indoors, CNN notes. Last May, prior to the emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19, the CDC also changed its mask guidelines to say fully vaccinated people mostly didn't need to wear masks indoors. According to NBC News, Walensky said Friday the guidelines could still change again but that "we want to give people a break from things like mask wearing when levels are low, and then have the ability to reach for them again should things get worse in the future."
A map showing the risk level for each U.S. county is available on the CDC's website.