Why a third of the US should keep their masks on: expert

People wear masks inside a store on May 17, 2022 in New York City. New York’s health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, has moved from a "medium" COVID-19 alert level to a "high" alert level in all the five boroughs following a surge in cases. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
People wear masks inside a store on May 17, 2022 in New York City. New York’s health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, has moved from a "medium" COVID-19 alert level to a "high" alert level in all the five boroughs following a surge in cases. Photo credit (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
By , KYW Newsradio

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that people in approximately one third of the U.S. should mask up in indoor environments due to community spread of COVID-19.

Around this time last year, the CDC announced that it no longer recommended vaccinated people wear masks in any setting. Since then, spikes in case numbers fueled by the delta and omicron variants of COVID-19 have impacted both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

According to Walensky, 32% of the U.S. population was in a location that had a “medium or high COVID-19 Community Level,” Wednesday, and affected “communities should encourage the use of prevention strategies, including masking and increasing access to testing and treatment, based on community levels.”

A map Walensky shared to social media showed that most of the “high transmission” areas this week were concentrated in the Northeast, with some popping up in the Northwest. There were also pockets of “medium transmission” areas throughout the country. A CDC county database that is updated weekly provides information about recommended masking guidance.

On a local level, some areas of the country have had on-and-off mask mandates since last May. For example, Philadelphia brought back its mask mandate for a short time last month.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 cases are trending up nationwide, with an average of 99,347 daily cases recorded as of Wednesday. Hospitalizations are also trending up, while deaths are trending down. More than 80% of the U.S. population has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“In areas where community levels are high, everyone should be using prevention measures and wearing a mask in public indoor settings,” such as restaurants and stores, said Walensky.

Even in areas that do not have high transmission, wearing a mask may be beneficial to people who are vulnerable to complications from the virus or who live with someone who might be prone to complications.

“Anyone can wear a mask at any time,” said Walensky. This week, the CDC updated a free mask finder feature on its website.

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