CDC to significantly ease pandemic mask guidelines

The Biden administration will significantly loosen federal mask-wearing guidelines designed to protect against COVID-19 transmission on Friday, according to two people familiar with the matter, meaning most Americans will no longer be advised to wear masks in indoor public settings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday will announce a change to the metrics it uses to determine whether to recommend face coverings, shifting from looking at COVID-19 case counts to a more holistic view of risk from the coronavirus to a community. Under current guidelines, masks are recommended for people residing in communities of substantial or high transmission—roughly 95% of U.S. counties, according to the latest data.

The new metrics will still consider caseloads, but also take into account hospitalizations and local hospital capacity, which have been markedly improved during the emergence of the omicron variant. That strain is highly transmissible, but indications are that it is less severe than earlier strains, particularly for people who are fully vaccinated and boosted. Under the new guidelines, the vast majority of Americans will no longer live in areas where indoor masking in public is recommended, based on current data.

The new policy comes as the Biden administration moves to shift its focus to preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, rather than all instances of infection, as part of a strategy adjustment for a new “phase” in the response as the virus becomes endemic.

The two people familiar with the change spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the CDC’s action before the announcement.

The change comes as nearly all U.S. states that had put in place indoor mask-wearing mandates for the winter omicron surge are letting them lapse as cases have precipitously dropped nationwide. Some have eliminated the mandates entirely, while others have kept mask-wearing requirements in place for schools and medical facilities.

It was not immediately clear how the new CDC guidance would affect U.S. federal mandates requiring face coverings on public transportation.

The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, has said a change has been in the works.

“We must consider hospital capacity as an additional important barometer. Our hospitals need to be able to take care of people with heart attacks and strokes. Our emergency departments can’t be so overwhelmed that patients with emergent issues have to wait in line,” she said during a White House briefing last week.

However, she declined to give a specific day when the CDC would announce a change. CDC officials on Thursday refused to confirm a release date.

“At @CDCgov, we have been analyzing our #COVID19 data and shifting our focus to preventing the most severe outcomes and minimizing healthcare strain,” Walensky tweeted Thursday night, offering no details on Friday’s announcement.

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16 thoughts on “CDC to significantly ease pandemic mask guidelines

    1. Likely the 1.5% of americans who died as a direct result of covid and the workforce which is still reeling from losing 5% of the workforce due to death and lack of childcare?

    1. “The omicron wave that assaulted the United States this winter also bolstered its defenses, leaving enough protection against the coronavirus that future spikes will likely require much less—if any—dramatic disruption to society.

      Millions of individual Americans’ immune systems now recognize the virus and are primed to fight it off if they encounter omicron, or even another variant.

      About half of eligible Americans have received booster shots, there have been nearly 80 million confirmed infections overall and many more infections have never been reported. One influential model uses those factors and others to estimate that 73% of Americans are, for now, immune to omicron, the dominant variant, and that could rise to 80% by mid-March.”

      https://www.ibj.com/articles/estimated-73-of-u-s-now-immune-to-omicron

    2. We did vaccinate our way out of this. You’ve got people experiencing cold symptoms and feeling like garbage for a couple days as opposed to overwhelming the medical system… those are the people who end up with the superior immune resistance.

      As repeatedly demonstrated by the hospitalization statistics, it’s those who refuse to get vaccinated (or those who took the ineffective J&J shot) who end up being the problems.

      You’re demanding perfection and zero cases. I’m accepting the current state of good enough.

  1. Well, I was going to pre-empt the nut jobs that I knew would chime in that it’s about time and we never needed the masks anyway, blah, blah. But I didn’t react quickly enough.

    So… for those in that camp, I’d ask you to review your, ahem, “research” as an epidemiologist to ask how many more people than the 940,000 deaths would have occurred without the CDC proposing and, yes, sometimes governments mandating restrictions?

    And just S-T-O-P with the nonsense that the count is inflated.

    Put another way, if “you-all” hadn’t been so brainwashed by TFG, how many of those 940,000 would have lived.

    1. Donald Trump, May 8, 2020:

      Well, I feel about vaccines like I feel about tests. This is going to go away without a vaccine. It’s going to go away, and it’s — we’re not going to see it again, hopefully, after a period of time. You may have some — some flare-ups and I guess, you know, I would expect that. Sometime in the fall, you’ll have flare-ups maybe. Maybe not. But according to what a lot of people say, you probably will. We’ll be able to put them out. You may have some flare-ups next year, but eventually, it’s going to be gone. I mean, it’s going to be gone.

      You know, there are some viruses and flus that came, and they went for a vaccine, they never found the vaccine, and they’ve disappeared. They’ve never shown up again. They got — they die too, like everything else. They die too.

      https://www.factcheck.org/2020/05/trump-baselessly-claims-coronavirus-will-go-away-without-vaccine/

    2. “The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different. The truth is, whatever the media says, our whole-of-America approach has been a success. We’ve slowed the spread, we’ve cared for the most vulnerable, we’ve saved lives, and we’ve created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future. That’s a cause for celebration, not the media’s fear mongering.”

      https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/articles/vice-president-mike-pence-op-ed-isnt-coronavirus-second-wave/

      A reminder that there was a second wave … third wave … and fourth wave.

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