There has been a drastic drop in the number of COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variation. Due to a decrease in the number of cases the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has updated masking guidelines for the 2nd time. According to the latest guidelines, approximately 70% of Americans are no longer obligated to wear masks indoors and outdoors. These guidelines indicate that many Americans don’t need to avoid crowded indoors or practice social distancing.
Whether you are in the 70% range depends on where you live. According to CDC’s new system counties are categorized as low, medium, or high risk based on data such as hospital beds used, hospital admissions, and the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in an area within the past week. You can find out the risk to your county by visiting the CDC site.
- For a county at low-risk: Wearing a mask depends on your level of exposure and risk.
- For a county at moderate risk: Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if you should wear a mask or take other precautions. Consider testing for infections if you are in close contact with someone who is at high risk of severe illness.
- For a county at high risk: Wear a well-fitting mask indoors even if you are fully vaccinated. High-risk individuals could require additional precautions.
The CDC recommends that you keep up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccinations, and get tested if symptoms persist. Masks must be worn on buses, trains, planes, and any other form of public transport. If you are high-risk or are not up to date with your vaccinations, it is important to avoid crowded and poorly ventilated indoor areas.
Previous CDC recommendations which were published a month ago (when Omicron cases were surging) provided details on types and respirators that could be used to prevent the transmission of SARS CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). While they acknowledged that certain types of respirators and masks (such as KN95s or N95s) provide greater protection, they recommended that you wear the most protective mask available. The mask should fit over the face properly and be used consistently.
These recommendations are not permanent. The CDC may recommend masks again if a new, potentially dangerous variant is discovered. The recommendations change according to the current in time situation of the pandemic.
Specialists have expressed concern about people at high risk of complications if they get infected. This includes older and immunocompromised patients, as well as children under 5 years old who are not eligible for vaccines. Parents are advised to do everything they can to prevent their children from being exposed to individuals that are not vaccinated.
Masking for protection
The masks were a useful preventive tool during the pandemic. However, some experts point out that COVID-19 may not be the only reason to keep them.
The number of cases of respiratory syndrome virus (RSV), a common virus that can cause serious respiratory problems in older adults and children, rose in certain areas in the U.S. The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a certain mentality anytime a person sneezes or has a runny nasal passage they will automatically suspect Covid and will get tested for COVID-19. It’s especially difficult for parents. Under normal circumstances–before COVID-19–kids would catch a cold or get flu due to the changing season and it would go on from November to March. The seasonal flu was expected and it still prevails even with Covid.
Wearing masks can help protect children and even adults from catching viral diseases like the common cold. Masks also provide a barrier against polluted air, especially in cities where smog is common.
Masking as a personal decision
Some Americans have been divided on the topic of wearing a mask to cover their faces. However, masks are common in Asian culture, where they are used to protect against flu-like viruses. After the country was hit hard by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), it became a common practice. It led to over 8,000 infections and nearly 800 deaths in 2002-2003.
In the United States, individualism reigns supreme, mask mandates have not been received well despite being a part of infection prevention strategies at the local, state, and national levels over the past two years. Research and data from the past two years have shown how effective wearing a mask has been as a preventive measure against COVID-19. The pandemic has changed the general public view of masks and people are now more willing to oblige to masking regulations if the need arises again.