CDC wants to give people a break from wearing masks as pandemic improves, director says

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies at a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing to examine the federal response to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and new emerging options on Washington’s Capitol Hill. , DC, USA, January 11, 2022

Sean Tew | Reuters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is revising its recommendations for mask use, shifting focus to Covid hospitalizations as a key indicator of the severity of the outbreak and future guidance for determining the need for tightened health safety protocols, according to CDC director Dr. Rochelle. Valensky.

“We should consider hospital capacity as an additional important barometer,” Valensky told the public during the White House Covid Update on Wednesday. “We want to give people a break from things like wearing masks when those numbers improve, and then be able to turn to them again if things get worse,” she said.

The CDC currently recommends that people wear masks in enclosed public places regardless of their vaccination status if they live in an area with high transmission of the virus. Nearly every county in the US now has high transmission rates, according to the CDC. Under federal law, people are required to wear masks on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation.

However, states have begun easing public health measures as new cases of omicron variant infections are rapidly declining from their peak levels in January. New York and California have removed the mandatory use of masks for businesses, while New Jersey has also waived the mandatory use of masks for schools.

Jeff Zients, White House Covid Response Coordinator, said the Biden administration is coordinating closely with state governors, public health experts and business leaders as the federal government plans what the U.S. response to Covid will look like when the infection surges. the omicron option will subside. .

“We are approaching a time when Covid will stop being a crisis and become something that we can protect against and cure,” Zients said at a briefing on Wednesday. “The President and our Covid team are actively planning for the future.”

The US on Tuesday reported an average of 136,000 new Covid cases per day over the past week, down 83% from the record high average of over 800,000 cases per day set Jan. 15, according to CNBC’s analysis of data from Johns. Hopkins University. The number of new infections is declining in almost every state and the District of Columbia, according to the data.

About 85,000 patients are in U.S. hospitals with Covid, according to a seven-day average from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as of Tuesday. It’s also below the peak of almost 160,000 people on January 20th.

“Because we have fewer cases, it will be more convenient for people to remove the mask, but we certainly want people to be able to wear it if they so choose,” Valensky said. The director of the CDC noted that people, regardless of the level of transmission in their community, must wear a mask for 10 days if they are diagnosed with Covid.

Omicron spreads faster than the previous variants, but it does not generally cause diseases such as delta or alpha strains in humans. As the number of infections in the US reached unprecedented levels, the number of hospitalizations and deaths did not increase at the same pace. However, hospitals still face enormous pressure during the omicron wave because this option can cause severe illness in the unvaccinated, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.

The White House’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told The Financial Times last week that the US is moving out of the “full-blown phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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