Should You Still Wear a Mask? What to Do Based on New CDC Guidance

Even in areas with "low" community levels, the CDC says it's okay to keep wearing a mask if you choose.

Most Americans are safe without wearing a mask in indoor settings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday as it issued new mask metrics and recommendations.

The new guidance puts approximately 70% of the nation's counties at low or medium risk for COVID, meaning masks are no longer necessary there.

The agency is still advising people 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.

Some people may want to consider wearing masks in certain situations, health officials say.

So, should you still mask up? Here's a breakdown of what to do based on CDC recommendations:

People who are at higher risk for COVID-19 — or those who live with others who are at risk — may still want to take extra precautions, including wearing masks, regardless of their own community status, according to the CDC.

Those at an elevated risk for contracting coronavirus include individuals age 65 or older, people with certain medical conditions and those who are immunocrompised.

If you live in an area designated as a "low" community level and are at high risk, the CDC encourages you to have a plan for rapid testing if needed. Also, it's recommended that you learn if you're a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals and monoclonal antibodies.

In areas with "low" community levels, the CDC says it's okay to keep wearing a mask if you choose.

However, the agency has stopped short of recommending face coverings in these spots, even for those at high risk.

Recommendations widely differ for those in "medium" levels.

Those who are immunocompromised or a high risk of getting COVID-19 should talk to their doctor about whether masking and other precautions are necessary, the CDC said. If you live with or have social contact with someone at high risk, health officials advise you to consider self-testing before contact and wear a mask when indoors with the individual.

The CDC also recommends you maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces when possible.

In settings deemed "high" risk, everyone should wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status, according to the CDC. Those who are immunocrompised and at risk for severe illness are encouraged to wear a mask or respirator that provides greater protection and may want to consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities.

Out of Illinois' 102 counties, 40 are said to have "low" community levels, which is the case for nearly all of the counties in the Chicago area. Another 41 counties were listed as having "medium" community levels, and 20 were ranked as "high."

Associated Press/NBC Chicago
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