Federal health officials said Wednesday that they will soon update their mask wear guidelines, although several states have recently revoked mandates requiring people to wear face masks while indoors.
In a briefing in the White House with journalistsDr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the new guidelines would encourage “preventive measures when they are most needed to protect public health and our hospitals.”
“We want to give people a break from things like wearing a mask when these measurements are better, and then have the ability to reach out to them again if things get worse,” she said, describing how CDC approached the case.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom eased the state’s universal indoor mask mandate this week, meaning that from Wednesday, vaccinated people can give up masks when they are indoors. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul lifted her state’s indoor mask mandate for businesses last week, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ended the requirement for students and school staff to wear masks. The Democratic governors took the steps as they have come under increasing political pressure from voters who are tired of two years of pandemic-related restrictions.
Walensky said the nation was on a “cautiously optimistic” course in its fight against the highly contagious Omicron variant, with the seven-day average of new cases falling by 40% compared to the previous week. Hospital admissions fell by 28% compared to the previous week, she said.
About 75% of the country’s adults are fully vaccinated, and two-thirds have received a booster injection.
As the Omicron wave subsides, the Biden administration is considering the best next steps, said Jeff Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator.
“As a result of all this progress and the tools we have now, we are moving towards a time when COVID is not a crisis, but it is something we can protect against and address,” Zients said. “The president and our COVID team are actively planning for this future.”