CDC announces easing of COVID-19 mask requirements
The announcement arrives as most states have already lifted the bulk of their COVID-19 restrictions.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention of Friday said most Americans are safe without a COVID-19 mask while indoors, including in classrooms.
The change follows a decline in the number of U.S. infections and hospitalizations from the arrival late last year of the virus' highly-contagious omicron variant.
The CDC eased the guidance based on a change in the metrics used to assess whether to recommend face coverings.
The agency will no longer focus on the total number of COVID cases and instead move to a more complete view that assesses the virus' risk to a community, according to the Associated Press.
Masks were previously recommended for people who live in communities with high transmission rates – which per recent data includes about 95% of U.S. counties
The wire service also reports the new assessment protocols will still consider caseloads, but also more seriously weigh hospitalizations and local hospital capacity.
The CDC is still advising people, including schoolchildren, to wear a mask where the risk of COVID is high, the situation in about 37% of U.S. counties, where about 28% of Americans reside.
The new recommendations do not change the requirement to wear masks on public transportation and indoors in airports, train stations and bus stations. The guidelines for other indoor spaces are not binding, which meaning cities and institutions can set their own rules. Also, the agency says people with COVID symptoms or who test positive shouldn’t stop wearing masks, the Associated Press also reports.