Are the masks finally coming off? Biden, CDC to dial back COVID-19 mask-wearing guidelines
The Biden administration will significantly loosen federal mask-wearing guidelines 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 coronavirus mutant widely known as “stealth omicron” is now causing more than a third of new omicron cases around the world, but scientists still don’t know how it could affect the future of the pandemic.
Researchers are slowly revealing clues about the strain, a descendant of omicron known as BA.2, while warily watching it become ever more prevalent.
Meanwhile, more than half the states are pursuing renewed legal challenges against a requirement from President Joe Biden’s administration for millions of healthcare workers across the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The vaccine requirement for Medicare and Medicaid providers was one of several mandates Biden’s administration imposed upon private-sector employers to try to drive up vaccination rates and slow the spread of the coronavirus.