The CDC relaxed its mask guidelines Friday after the agency acknowledged the risk of severe COVID-19 cases has gone down.
Instead of looking only at confirmed COVID-19 case counts, the agency will take a more holistic view of the risk the virus poses to communities and incorporate a different set of metrics before recommending mask guidelines to certain locales.
Masks were recommended for people who live in areas that have substantial or high transmission, which accounted for about 95 percent of US counties. The CDC will also factor in hospitalization rates and infirmary capacities before issuing mask recommendations.
Under the new guidelines, most US counties no longer meet the threshold at which indoor masking in public is recommended.
Following the arrival of the Omicron variant at the end of last year, confirmed cases of the virus skyrocketed across the country, prompting most states to reinstate indoor mask requirements but as cases and hospitalizations continue to fall, many have scrapped the directive.
The loosened guidelines come as the Biden administration shifts its focus from preventing all infections and moves to manage the virus as an endemic problem.
While the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, the risk of severe disease is far lower than previous strains, especially among the vaccinated and boosted.