Workers in home health care, nursing homes, hospitals and other health care settings are no longer required to wear masks indoors.
Late Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance that ended a blanket indoor mask requirement that had been in effect for the last two and a half years.
The guidance was part of the CDC’s revisions to the agency’s COVID-19 recommendations, one of the final sets of changes that began in August.
The CDC recently reported that just over 73% of counties in the U.S. have “high” COVID transmission levels. About 27% of counties meet the substantial, moderate or low categories.
Since early in the pandemic, the CDC has urged people in the U.S. to wear masks – what the agency calls “source control” – while in health care settings.
The new guidelines apply to nursing homes, home health facilities and hospitals. The guidelines do not apply to restaurants and other non-health care environments.
“Updates were made to reflect the high levels of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity and the availability of effective treatments and prevention tools,” the CDC’s new guidance reads.
Even though masks are no longer required in facilities where transmission is not high, the CDC still recommends they be worn:
– If someone has a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or other respiratory infection
– If someone has close contact or a higher-risk exposure with someone who had COVID-19 for 10 days after their exposure
– If someone lives or works somewhere that is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak (in this case, universal mask wearing can stop once no new cases have been identified for 14 days)
– If mask wearing is recommended by local public health authorities
Last week, President Joe Biden made waves by saying “the pandemic is over” during his appearance on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
In an interview with ABC News after receiving her bivalent COVID-19 booster shot, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky didn’t directly agree with the President but said the country “is in a different place.”
“I think if we look at the big picture, things are very different,” Walensky said. “We’re in a different place. Schools are open and businesses are open. We have a lot of population immunity out there right now.”
The updated guidelines come almost exactly a year after President Biden unveiled a six-pronged national COVID-19 strategy where home health agencies were explicitly mentioned in the plan.
At the time, the Biden administration pushed American workers to get vaccinated and called for an increase in testing and masking among health care workers.