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May 21, 2022
CDC Will Reportedly Stop Recommending Masking Indoors In Most Instances
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CDC Will Reportedly Stop Recommending Masking Indoors In Most Instances

Topline
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will recommend that most people no longer need to wear face masks in indoor public spaces, marking a shift in how the agency weighs case counts against other metrics like hospitalizations, the Associated Press reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the adjusts her mask during a Senate Health, … [+] Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill March 18, 2021.

Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images

Key Facts

The guideline change is part of the Biden Administration’s shift from attempting to prevent Covid infections to attempting to prevent serious illness, as the virus enters an endemic phase, the AP reported.

This broader policy shift is a response to the omicron variant, which now accounts for practically all U.S. cases and is highly transmissible, but is believed to be less likely to cause severe illness than other variants, according to the AP.

Current CDC guidelines recommend masking for people over age 2 who are not up to date on vaccinations or who are in areas with “substantial or high” rates of virus transmission.

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment

Key Background
The reported policy shift was foreshadowed February 16 when CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the CDC must emphasize the importance of maintaining hospital capacity when choosing its metrics, which she said would be updated “soon.” Masks have been recognized as an effective way to curb infections since the early days of the pandemic, notably during a 2020 outbreak on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during which crew members who wore masks had a 55.8% chance of being infected, while those who did not wear masks were found to have a roughly 80% chance. While N95 and KN95 respirator masks reduce the risk of testing positive for the virus by 83%, more popular cloth masks are also effective, diminishing risk by 56%, according to a real-world study published February 4 by the CDC. In January, the Biden Administration announced it would distribute 400 million free N95 masks.

Crucial Quote
“We are assessing the most important factors based on where we are in the pandemic, and we’ll soon put guidance in place that is relevant and encourages prevention measures when they are most needed to protect public health and our hospitals,” Walensky said. “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.”

Further Reading
“Respirator Masks 48% More Effective Than Cloth Masks, Study Finds” (Forbes)

“The Real-World Effectiveness Of Face Masks Against Covid-19” (Forbes)

Read More

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