Now that wearing masks are no longer mandatory, cities and establishment can set their own rules. (Photo by Black Health Matters)

By Black Health Matters

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has announced that healthy Americans can take off their masks. They have outlined new guidelines for communities where COVID-19 is lessening its grip.

The new system set in place changes the look of the CDC’s risk map. It puts more than 70% of the U.S. population in counties where COVID-19 poses a minimum threat to hospitals. According to the agency, those individuals officially take off their masks. However, they are still recommending that people, including school kids, wear masks where the risk of COVID-19 is high. Currently, about 37% of U.S. counties where that situation applies.

In addition, the new measures don’t change the requirement to wear masks on public transportation and indoors in bus or train stations and on planes. The rule for other indoor spaces isn’t mandatory. Therefore the cities and establishments can set their own rules. Furthermore, anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive should continue to wear their masks.

“Anybody is certainly welcome to wear a mask at any time if they feel safer wearing a mask,” the CDC Director said in a news briefing. “We want to make sure our hospitals are okay, and people are not coming in with severe diseases. … Anyone can go to the CDC website, find out the volume of disease in their community and make that decision.”

Since July, the transmission-prevention guidance to communities focused on two measures, the rate of new cases and the percentage of positive test results over the previous week. And based on those metrics, agency officials advised people to wear masks indoors where the threat was high. Unfortunately, this week more than 3,200 counties were listed as having soaring transmissions.

Sadly, that guidance has increasingly been ignored. But states, cities, and school districts across the country announced their plan to remove mask mandates. This is because of the decline in several cases, hospitalizations, and COVID-19-related deaths. Earlier, Los Angeles started allowing people to remove their masks indoors if they were vaccinated. And indoor mask mandates will be lifted in Oregon and Washington in March.

The CDC offers a color-coded map that highlights the level of risk in each county by color. The colors are based on the rate of new hospital admissions. The map will guide local officials and residents on the listed measures. In the green counties, officials can eliminate the indoor mask mandate. Yellow counties mean people are at high risks for the disease and should be cautious. Lastly, the orange counties designate places where masking should be universal. The colors are based on the rate of new hospital admissions.

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