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New guidance from CDC says about 70% of Americans can safely unmask indoors

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Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on Friday that recommended most Americans could unmask safely in public indoor settings.

Under the new guidance, about 70% of Americans live in a region where the threat from coronavirus is low or moderate, and so can unmask.

The CDC still recommends that people keep wearing masks in counties were the threat from coronavirus is high, which includes about 37% of counties and about 28% of the population.

The guidelines are not binding, local governments will continue deciding their own community guidelines.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky explained the rationale behind changing the guidelines to reporters Friday.

“This new framework moves beyond just looking at cases and test positivity, to evaluate factors that reflect the severity of disease — including hospitalizations and hospital capacity — and helps to determine whether the level of Covid-19 and severe disease are low, medium or high in a community,” said Walensky.

The change in guidance reflects criticism against basing mask requirements on coronavirus case counts which are becoming less meaningful after the spread of the Omicron variant. The new guidance relies more on hospitalization rates as a metric to recommend the social distancing guidelines.

“The Covid-19 community level we are releasing today will inform CDC recommendations on prevention measures, like masking, and CDC recommendations for layered prevention measures will depend on the Covid-19 level in the community,” Walensky continued. “This updated approach focuses on directing our prevention efforts towards protecting people at high risk for severe illness and preventing hospitals and health care systems from being overwhelmed.”

COVID-19 cases have dropped about 90% nationwide since hitting a high in January due to the spread of Omicron. Many local governments have also recently decided to drop their mask mandates.

The new guidelines will apply to schoolchildren as well.

Here's more about the new CDC guidelines:

CDC adjusts recommendations for mask-wearing www.youtube.com

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