On Wednesday, Joe Biden’s Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, stated that the agency is considering giving Americans a “break” regarding mask guidance. She said the guidance might be reviewed if some metrics regarding COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases improve.
Walensky alluded to hospitalization numbers as the critical metric the agency is considering but said no recommendations are ready to be changed yet. She said that CDC must use “hospital capacity” as an additional metric. In saying that masking guidance may change soon, she emphasized that the agency wanted to have the “ability to reach for them again” if numbers get worse in the future.
Walensky cited “substantial or high” transmissions in more than 97 percent of counties as the basis for maintaining current recommendations.
The current recommendations say face coverings should be used in indoor public spaces in areas with high COVID transmission. The masking guidance applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons. Using CDC standards, almost all American counties still have “high” transmission rates.
Although masks are required by law for air travel and inside many government buildings and public spaces, states like Florida and Texas have decided against state masking mandates. As spring weather approaches and case numbers are falling, Democrat-controlled states like California and New York are beginning to roll back masking rules. The CDC is also facing the reality that most Americans have moved from regular mask-wearing.
White House COVID response coordinator Jeffrey Zients said the federal government is looking ahead to when “COVID isn’t a crisis” but something endemic that can be treated and protected against. He added that the Administration actively coordinates with Governors, business leaders, and public health experts to prepare for the near-term future.
This week, the CDC reported that there had been about 136,000 new COVID-19 cases each day since last week, which is a decrease of 83 percent from the record high set in mid-January. The Department of Health and Human Services says about 85,000 Americans are hospitalized with COVID-19.
Walensky said that CDC wants to get to the point where people can wear a mask “if they so choose.”