March 3, 2022

Mask Up, Spread Out, Get Vaccinated


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidance on masking. Read recent news of interest from the world of infectious diseases, with a focus on COVID-19 and a new tool (COVID-19 Community Level) to determine appropriate prevention steps based on the latest data:

CDC Eases COVID-19 Mask Guidance, Adds Metrics for Future Use: As expected and amid a steadily declining Omicron surge, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its indoor masking guidance, which would ease indoor use for most parts of the country, according to new baseline measures. CDC urges states and cities to still look at COVID-19 caseloads when considering masking. But it adds two new metrics for assessing whether to trigger the measure: hospitalization levels and hospital capacity. Source: CIDRAP News

How Should You Decide Whether to Keep Wearing a Mask? Our Expert Weighs in: CDC has released a new measure for determining COVID-19 community levels. According to these new metrics that now take into account hospitalizations and hospital capacity in addition to infection numbers, nearly 70% of the US population resides in areas where masks are no longer required. Source: CNN

William Schaffner, MD, NFID Medical Director

What to Know About the CDC’s Newest Recommendations on Masking: Masking has become a semi-normal part of life over the past two-plus years, but the CDC just revealed new guidance that suggests many people don’t need to mask up for COVID-19 and the Omicron variant … The new guidance does involve a little legwork on your end to see what’s happening in your community before making the decision to mask up or not. According to NFID Medical Director William Schaffner, MD, a lot will come down to individual risk assessment. “Some people may elect to continue to wear their masks no matter what zone they’re in. I make a plea for tolerance so that people don’t give those folks a hard time. Who knows what their health issues are? They have made the decision that they’re at high risk and that should be enough.” Source: Prevention

CDC Community Levels MapHow to Interpret CDC’s New Mask Guidelines: COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, but the agency now calculates risk differently. Under previous guidelines, case counts were the most important measure. CDC labeled counties that exceeded 50 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the past week or had 8 percent of tests coming back positive as places with substantial or high transmission. The updated metrics for COVID-19 risk take both case levels and hospitalizations in a community into account. As a result, less of the country is now in the high level. Fewer cases and hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the last seven days mean low transmission while higher numbers indicate medium or high levels. Source: Science News

Most Americans Don’t Need to Wear Masks Indoors Under New CDC COVID-19 Guidance: New guidance, which gauges the level of virus spread and severity in communities and ranks them as high, medium, or low, also applies to mask use in schools. Most people in areas with low or medium community levels, which is roughly 70% of the US population, can drop their masks in public indoor settings under the guidance. People with increased risk for severe COVID-19 can safely ditch their masks in a “low” community level, but they should check with their doctor before considering ditching their mask in a “medium” community level, according to CDC. Source: US News & World Report

When You Do Wear a Mask, Follow These Tips

Masks Dos & Don'ts Snug FitLayered prevention strategies—like staying up to date on vaccines and wearing masks—can help prevent severe illness and reduce strain on the healthcare system. If you wear a mask, be sure to follow these masking dos and don’ts:

  • Do wear a mask that fits snuggly from nose to chin
  • Don’t wear your mask below the nose, around your neck, or on your forehead
  • Do wash your hands frequently
  • Don’t touch your mask more than necessary

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