CDC Calls for One Third of Americans to
Mask Up Again

Damian McNamara, MA

May 19, 2022

Maybe it was inevitable. In light of both COVID-19 cases and hospitalization numbers rising again, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, recommends that about a third of Americans mask up again when indoors, when using public transportation, or if you are at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness.

The CDC advice comes the same week the U.S. surpassed 1 million deaths from the pandemic, and experts warned COVID-19 remains a threat.

Walensky and other officials on Wednesday held their first White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing since April 5 because of the "steady increase in COVID-19 cases" over the past 5 weeks, a 7-day average of about 3,000 hospitalizations per day, and about 275 Americans dying from COVID-19 every day, on average.

Though Walensky acknowledged these numbers are far lower than those seen during the first Omicron spike, “Nearly 300 deaths a day is still far too many,” she during the briefing.

Later that same day, Walensky elaborated on Twitter.

"32% of the U.S. population is in a location with a medium or high COVID-19 community level," she tweeted Wednesday evening. "Communities should encourage the use of prevention strategies, including masking and increasing access to testing and treatment, based on community levels."

It takes a community. At least it takes looking up your community on the CDC COVID Data Tracker to see if you live in a county with low, medium, or high transmission. Armed with that information, you should do what needs to be done, Walensky said.

She replied to her own tweet to clarify that people also can use the same CDC color-coded COVID-19 warning system to find their personal level of risk.

"COVID-19 community levels can also inform personal decisions on prevention measures needed. In areas where community levels are high, everyone should be using prevention measures and wearing a mask in public indoor settings," Walensky wrote on Twitter.

She added a comment that could come in handy if someone mask-shames you at the grocery store: “Anyone can wear a mask at any time."

Sources:

Media briefing, White House COVID-19 Response Team, May 18, 2022.

Twitter: @CDCDirector, May 18, 2022.

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