Most healthy Americans — and Utahns — can take a break from masks, CDC says

Most Individuals — and Utahns — reside in locations the place wholesome individuals, together with college students in faculties, can safely take a break from sporting masks underneath new U.S. pointers launched Friday.

The Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention outlined the brand new set of measures for communities the place COVID-19 is easing its grip, with much less of a give attention to constructive take a look at outcomes and extra on what’s occurring at hospitals.

The brand new system tremendously modifications the look of the CDC’s danger map and places greater than 70% of the U.S. inhabitants in counties the place the coronavirus is posing a low or medium risk to hospitals. These are the individuals who can cease sporting masks, the company stated.

Carbon, Emery, Juab, Millard, Sevier, Utah and Wayne counties are thought-about Utah’s low-risk areas.

Salt Lake County is taken into account a medium-risk space, together with Beaver, Field Elder, Cache, Daggett, Davis, Duchesne, Garfield, Grand, Iron, Kane, Morgan, Wealthy, Sanpete, Summit, Uintah, Wasatch, Washington, and Weber counties. In such areas, individuals at excessive danger for extreme illness ought to train warning, the CDC suggested.

The company remains to be advising that folks, together with schoolchildren, put on masks the place the chance of COVID-19 is excessive. That’s the state of affairs in about 37% of U.S. counties, the place about 28% of Individuals reside. In Utah, that features Tooele and San Juan counties.

The CDC says officers in high-risk counties ought to mandate masks — however it’s solely a suggestion. All selections on masks mandates are being left as much as native officers.

Utah reported 425 new COVID-19 instances on Friday, the eighth day in a row that the reported case rely has been beneath 850. The variety of Utahns hospitalized with COVID-19 had fallen by 23, to 395. Nonetheless, there have been 101 individuals with COVID-19 hospitalized in Utah intensive care models, 9 greater than on Thursday.

The brand new suggestions don’t change the requirement to put on masks on public transportation and indoors in airports, prepare stations and bus stations, which implies masks should nonetheless be worn on UTA buses and trains and at Salt Lake Metropolis Worldwide Airport.

In Utah, the brand new steerage shouldn’t be more likely to result in vital change, stated Tom Hudachko, director of communications for the Utah Division of Well being.

“We don’t have any mandates in place,” he famous “I feel perhaps final week a variety of locations would have used it to elevate mandates. There’s clearly none of that right here, and there’s not a lot of it wherever within the nation.”

Nicholas Rupp, spokesman for the Salt Lake County Well being Division, agreed.

I assume it’s truthful to say that it’s not going to have a huge impact domestically with necessities,” Rupp stated. “However it could change some individuals’s conduct. Those that comply with suggestions very carefully — there could also be some modifications there.”

Dr. Angela Dunn, govt director of the division, is predicted to launch new pointers for Salt Lake County residents within the coming days — more than likely on Monday, Rupp stated.

Whereas the affect of the CDC’s modifications will not be substantial, the brand new steerage might encourage companies who’ve been on the fence about bringing workers again to the workplace, stated Dee Brewer, govt director of the Downtown Alliance of the Salt Lake Chamber.

The proportion of workers working in downtown Salt Lake Metropolis, in comparison with 2019, was flat at 38% for many of 2021, Brewer stated, and began climbing in September. The omicron surge in December and January moved workplace attendance to 35%, however it’s climbing larger now than it has since 2020, in accordance with Chamber knowledge.

As of Feb. 15, 48% of workers who labored in downtown Salt Lake Metropolis workplaces in 2019 have returned to work face-to-face, in accordance with Chamber knowledge.

Downtown eating places, bars and performances have attracted guests at close to pre-pandemic ranges, Brewer stated. The variety of visits to downtown companies is at 86% of its 2019 stage, in accordance with Chamber knowledge.

”It’s attention-grabbing that persons are extra comfy coming [downtown] for all these different causes, proper?” Brewer stated. “… Which tells me that it’s not simply concerning the virus or concerning the protections from the virus.”

The CDC’s up to date steerage will “sign the return to regular,” Brewer stated, however many companies have already reconsidered how typically workers want to collect nose to nose. And companies wish to set their very own necessities for masking, relying on their atmosphere, he stated, such because the variations between working situations at a development website and a restaurant.

The CDC pointers for indoor areas, aside from transportation, aren’t binding, which means cities and establishments even in areas of low danger might set their very own guidelines. And the company says individuals with COVID-19 signs or who take a look at constructive shouldn’t cease sporting masks.

However with safety from immunity rising — each from vaccination and an infection — the general danger of extreme illness is now usually decrease, the CDC stated.

“Anyone is actually welcome to put on a masks at any time in the event that they really feel safer sporting a masks,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky stated in a information briefing. “We wish to be sure our hospitals are OK and persons are not coming in with extreme illness. … Anybody can go to the CDC web site, discover out the quantity of illness of their neighborhood and make that call.”

Since July, CDC’s transmission-prevention steerage to communities has centered on two measures — the speed of recent COVID-19 instances and the proportion of constructive take a look at outcomes over the earlier week.

Based mostly on these measures, company officers suggested individuals to put on masks indoors in counties the place unfold of the virus was deemed substantial or excessive. This week, greater than 3,000 of the nation’s greater than 3,200 counties — larger than 95% — had been listed as having substantial or excessive transmission.

That steerage has more and more been ignored, nonetheless, with states, cities, counties and faculty districts throughout the U.S. saying plans to drop masks mandates amid declining COVID-19 instances, hospitalizations and deaths.

With many Individuals already taking off their masks, the CDC’s shift received’t make a lot sensible distinction for now, stated Andrew Noymer, a public well being professor on the College of California, Irvine. However it can assist when the following wave of an infection — a chance within the fall or winter — begins threatening hospital capability once more, he stated.

“There shall be extra waves of COVID. And so I feel it is sensible to offer individuals a break from masking,” Noymer stated. “If now we have continuous masking orders, they could turn out to be a complete joke by the point we actually want them once more.”

The CDC can also be providing a color-coded map — with counties designated as orange, yellow or inexperienced — to assist information native officers and residents. In inexperienced counties, native officers can drop any indoor masking guidelines. Yellow means individuals at excessive danger for extreme illness ought to be cautious. Orange designates locations the place the CDC suggests masking ought to be common.

(Screengrab | Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention) The CDC introduced new masking steerage on Friday, primarily based on new metrics that measure the unfold of COVID-19.

How a county involves be designated inexperienced, yellow or orange will rely on its price of recent COVID-19 hospital admissions, the share of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 sufferers and the speed of recent instances locally.

The hospitalization metric could also be deceptive in Salt Lake County, Rupp famous. “So lots of our hospitals take sufferers from outdoors our county — from Davis County, from Utah County, from Idaho, from Wyoming,” he stated. “So giving hospitalizations a larger weight will not be an ideal barometer for what’s occurring in that jurisdiction.”

Masks necessities have already got resulted in many of the U.S. in latest weeks. Los Angeles on Friday started permitting individuals to take away their masks whereas indoors if they’re vaccinated, and indoor masks mandates in Washington state and Oregon shall be lifted in March.

In an indication of the political divisions over masks, Florida’s governor on Thursday introduced new suggestions known as “Buck the CDC” that really discourage masks sporting.

State well being officers are usually happy with the brand new steerage and “excited with how that is being rolled out,” stated Dr. Marcus Plescia of the Affiliation of State and Territorial Well being Officers.

“That is the best way we have to go. I feel that is taking us ahead with a brand new route happening within the pandemic,” Plescia stated. “However we’re nonetheless specializing in security. We’re nonetheless specializing in stopping loss of life and sickness.”

The CDC stated the brand new system shall be helpful in predicting future surges and urged communities with wastewater surveillance techniques to make use of that knowledge too.

“If or when new variants emerge or the virus surges, now we have extra methods to guard ourselves and our communities than ever earlier than,” Walensky stated.

— Tribune reporters Scott D. Pierce and Connor Sanders contributed to this report. The Related Press Well being and Science Division receives assist from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Division of Science Schooling. The AP is solely chargeable for all content material.

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