- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2022

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer recommends universal masking in health care settings unless a facility is in an area with high levels of coronavirus transmission.

Agency officials relaxed the guidance as part of an update that reflects high levels of “vaccine- and infection-induced immunity” to the virus and the availability of COVID-19 treatments.

The update uses the CDC’s transmission metric, which is more stringent than the community levels that take into account severe disease and hospitalizations and guide whether someone should mask up in non-healthcare settings.

Roughly 73% of the country is still considered to be in a high-transmission zone, though the revamped guidance is notable because health settings were adhering to strict rules while masks fell away in schools and businesses and on public transportation.

“When [virus] Community Transmission levels are not high, healthcare facilities could choose not to require universal source control,” the CDC update said, using a technical term for masking. 

However, the CDC said health workers in places with lower transmission should mask up if they feel COVID-19 symptoms; were exposed to someone who might have the virus; work or live in an area with a known virus outbreak, or must wear a mask because local authorities mandate it.

The updated guidance is part of a shift from treating the coronavirus as a manageable disease instead of a hair-on-fire emergency. President Biden, for instance, recently used a “60 Minutes” interview to declare the pandemic phase of the crisis was over.

But some experts worry health care facilities might not be able to parse through the nuances of the new CDC guidance, leading to viral exposure among vulnerable patients.

“This nuanced have your cake and eat it too approach hasn’t worked A SINGLE TIME throughout the pandemic. People hear ‘no more masks!’” tweeted Dr. Jerome Adams, who served as U.S. surgeon general in the Trump administration.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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