More than 90% of the U.S. population lives in area where they no longer need to wear facemasks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.
The CDC issued new guidance last week that focuses on severe disease from Covid and hospitalizations when making recommendations on whether or not facemasks are needed.
The guidance is broken into three color-coded levels. People in green and yellow counties, with low and medium Covid levels respectively, do not need to wear masks. However, people in yellow counties who are at high risk of severe illness from Covid should consult with their physician about whether they should wear a mask or take other precautions.
Everyone is still required by federal law to wear facemasks and planes, trains and other forms of public transportation. The facemask requirement for planes expires on March 18. CDC officials have said they are reviewing whether or not the requirement is still necessary.
People in red counties with high Covid levels are recommended to wear masks indoors in public places regardless of vaccination status. Less than 10% of the U.S. population now lives in such counties, according to the CDC. You can check the status of your county by visiting the CDC’s website.
The omicron Covid variant upended the U.S. in December and January, causing an unprecedented level of infection. However, new infections have plummeted and are now down more than 90% from a pandemic record in January. The U.S. reported an average of nearly 58,000 new infections on Wednesday, compared the peak of more than 802,000 on Jan. 15, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
Hospitalizations are down 77% from the peak level during the omicron wave. More than nearly 35,000 people were hospitalized with Covid on Thursday, down from nearly 153,000 on Jan. 20, according to data from the Health and Human Services Department.
President Joe Biden, in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, said it was safe for most Americans to return to work in person.
“With 75% of adult Americans fully vaccinated and hospitalizations down by 77%, most Americans can remove their masks, return to work, stay in the classroom, and move forward safely,” the president said.