The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to relax their guidelines for when and where Americans should wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, allowing most people to go into public indoor spaces without masks, according to two federal officials familiar with the virus. the case .
The policy is expected to be announced Friday afternoon, a board official said. The Associated Press first reported the change on Thursday.
Under current guidelines, the agency recommends that anyone living in areas with substantial or high transmission of the coronavirus, as defined by the number of cases, should wear masks in indoor public spaces such as gyms, movie theaters and full-capacity places of worship. That means people living in 95 percent of counties in the United States must continue to wear masks indoors. The country is registering an average of about 76,000 new cases per day, down about 66 percent from two weeks ago.
The upcoming recommendations are expected to depend on newly defined statistics to determine whether people in a particular geographic area are at high risk for the virus. They will put less emphasis on the number of cases and give more weight to hospitalizations as a key measure of risk, according to a federal official familiar with the plans but not authorized to discuss them.
The guidelines are likely to take into account the capacity of hospitals in a local environment as an important indicator of the level of risk. With hospitalizations declining across the country, the vast majority of Americans may be dropping their masks. Across the country, about 60,000 people have been hospitalized with Covid, but that number has fallen by about 44 percent in the past two weeks.
Most states have already relaxed mask-wearing rules, and some, like New Jersey, have announced plans to lift mandates even in schools. Others are about to end indoor mask mandates in the coming weeks. But an official recommendation from the CDC may have some impact in districts that have been more cautious.
Many companies have moved to requiring proof of vaccinations only. But masks are currently mandatory on public transport, including airplanes. The current mandate will remain in force until March 18 and may be extended.
Last year, the CDC was sharply criticized for lifting mask restrictions too soon, prompting the Delta strain of the virus to spread across the country. This time, however, many public health experts support the relaxation of mask guidelines.
Recent polls have shown that the public’s patience with Covid restrictions is on the wane. Nearly half of Americans surveyed felt the nation should “learn to live with” the pandemic “and get back to normal,” according to a recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll. About 70 percent of Americans believe that “it’s time we accepted that Covid is here to stay and that we should just get on with our lives,” according to a recent Monmouth University poll.