More than 45% of the U.S. population should either be wearing masks in public indoor spaces or considering the measure based on their risk for severe COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC reports that as of Thursday roughly 24% of counties making up more than 45% of the U.S. population are deemed either a “medium” or “high” COVID-19 community level – a measure determined by new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and hospital capacities. Most of the counties are located in the Northeast, which has struggled with a surge of a new omicron subvariant.
Only people in counties deemed a high coronavirus community level need to wear masks indoors, though people who are at risk for severe COVID-19 should check with their doctor before dropping masks in a medium area.
About 18% of the population falls under a high community level while almost 28% is in a medium community level.
It’s a substantial difference from mid-March, when the CDC’s map showed that virtually every American could stop wearing masks indoors. But coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have been increasing nationally for weeks.
“While cases remain much lower than during the omicron surge this past winter, the current seven-day daily average of cases is now at about 94,000 cases per day, which is an increase nationally about 26 percent over the previous week and a threefold increase over the last month,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing this week. “Similarly, hospital admissions are also increasing, but remain much lower than they were during the Omicron surge. The seven-day average of hospital admissions now is about 3,000 per day, and that’s an increase of about 19 percent over the previous week.”
However, changes in the CDC’s COVID-19 community levels have not prompted localities to reimplement widespread mask mandates like the agency might have hoped.