JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Most Americans now live in places where healthy people, including students in schools, can safely take a break from wearing masks under new U.S. guidelines released Friday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined a new set of measures for communities where COVID-19 is easing its grip. They focus less on positive test results and more on what’s happening at hospitals.
More than 70% of the U.S. population lives in counties where the coronavirus is posing a low or medium threat to hospitals. Those are the people who can stop wearing masks indoors for now, by CDC guidelines.
Jacksonville Dr. Jonathan Kantor, a scholar at the Penn Center for Global Health, pointed out that Duval County is still considered an area of high COVID-19 Community Level, according to the CDC. Notably, Alachua, Baker, Clay, Columbia, Nassau, and St. Johns counties also still fall in the high COVID-19 Community Level as well.
“So what these are recommendations for now is to say, what do we do kind of as a population, as a community,” Kantor said. “But again, that’s not to say that if you are in a medium risk place, for example, that, you know, you should throw your mask in the trash.”
The CDC’s website suggests in Duval wearing a mask indoors and in public, getting vaccinated and to getting tested if you experience symptoms of COVID.
“You’re always going to be more protected wearing a mask than you are not wearing a mask. There’s no question about that,” Kantor said.
The agency is still advising people, including schoolchildren, to wear masks where the risk of COVID-19 is high. That’s the situation in about 37% of U.S. counties, where about 28% of Americans live.
The CDC guidelines for other indoor spaces aren’t binding, meaning cities and institutions even in areas of low risk may set their own rules.
The new recommendations do not change the requirement to wear masks on public transportation and indoors in airports, train stations and bus stations.