The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is turning its focus from mask guidance to hospitalizations as a key measure of the severity of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the strictness of health and safety protocols, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky confirmed on Wednesday (February 16).
“We must consider hospital capacity as an additional important barometer,” Walensky said during a White House Covid update via CNBC. “We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing when these metrics are better, and then have the ability to reach for them again should things worsen,” she said.
The CDC is currently recommending all U.S. residents wear masks inside public places regardless of their vaccination status or whether the area is considered a high viral transmission area.
The CDC’s latest data reports the majority of U.S. counties currently have high transmission.
The public is required by federal law to wear masks or face coverings on all forms of public transportation, however, numerous states have recently eased mask mandates amid the declining number of cases nationwide.
Jeff Zients, White House COVID response coordinator, confirmed President Joe Biden‘s administration is working with state governors, public health experts and business leaders while deciding on a federal course of action regarding how to move forward with the U.S. COVID reaction as cases continue to decline.
“We’re moving toward a time when Covid isn’t a crisis, but it’s something we can protect against and treat,” Zients said during Wednesday’s briefing. “The president and our Covid team are actively planning for the future.”
On Tuesday (February 15), the U.S. reported an average of about 136,000 new COVID cases during the past week, which was an 83% decline from the record high of more than 800,00 daily cases reported exactly one month prior, CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
Additionally, nearly every U.S. state and the District of Columbia have reported significant declines in cases recently, according to the data.