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CDC Eases Mask Guidance, Makes Recommendations for Hamilton County | Cincinnati News | Cincinnati

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Photo: Matteo Jorjoson, Unsplash

The CDC has updated how it determines the severity of COVID spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated how it is reporting the severity of COVID-19 cases in counties across America.

Instead of relying just on infection rates to determine if an area has a “low,” “medium” or “high” instance of COVID-19 spread, the CDC says it is now using three metrics to make its ruling:

  • new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days;
  • the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients;
  • and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days.


Health officials and individuals should consider current information about COVID-19 hospitalizations in the community, as well as the potential for strain on the local health system and COVID-19 cases in the community, when making decisions about community prevention strategies and individual behaviors,” says the CDC.

And this applies to masking.

Under its new guidance, the CDC does not recommend indoor masking for those in areas with low or medium community spread. And that currently includes Hamilton County.

The CDC does, however, continue to recommend indoor masking in areas with high spread. The CDC notes that “at all levels, people can wear a mask based on personal preference, informed by personal level of risk.” And that those who have symptoms, exposure of who have tested positive should wear a mask.

Hamilton County is currently labeled as medium according to the CDC, which means there have been 10-19.9 people with COVID admitted to the hospital per 100,000 over the past seven days and between 10% and 14.9% of hospital beds are occupied by COVID patients.

click to enlarge COVID community spread numbers as of Feb. 24, 2022 - PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE CDC

Photo: Courtesy of the CDC

COVID community spread numbers as of Feb. 24, 2022

This system applies as long as the grand total of newly reported COVID cases over seven days is below 200; metrics change if infections spike above 200. If a county reports more than 200 cases over seven days, the CDC says both the number of cases and hospital beds dedicated to COVID patients needs to be below 10% to stay medium.

Campbell, Kenton and Boone counties in Northern Kentucky are labeled as high, which means they have  more than 20 new COVID admissions per 100,000 and more than 15% of inpatient beds have been taken by COVID patients.

Low spread means less there are less than 10 new COVID admissions per 100,000 and less than 10% of hospital beds are occupied by those with the virus.

See the CDC table at cdc.gov for full information about parameters.

Counties with low amounts of COVID (those marked in green) should take the following into consideration:

  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
  • Maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces when possible
  • Follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19
  • If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease: Have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing); talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, PrEP, and monoclonal antibodies

Those in medium or yellow counties should:

  • If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease: Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions (e.g., testing)
  • If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for severe disease: Consider self-testing to detect infection before contact; consider wearing a mask when indoors with them
  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
  • Maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces when possible
  • Follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19
  • If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease: Have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing); talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, PrEP, and monoclonal antibodies

And those in high or orange counties should:

  • Wear a well-fitting mask1 indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status (including in K-12 schools and other indoor community settings)
  • If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease: Wear a mask or respirator that provides you with greater protection; consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public where you could be exposed
  • If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease: Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions (e.g., testing)
  • If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for severe disease: Consider self-testing to detect infection before contact; consider wearing a mask when indoors with them
  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
  • Maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces when possible
  • Follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19
  • If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease: Have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing); talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, PrEP, and monoclonal antibodies

The CDC says it updated its strategy because of both vaccination rates and levels of immunity (due to infection) in the population.

“The risk of medically significant disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 is greatly reduced for most people,” says the CDC, before noting that “some people and communities, such as our oldest citizens, people who are immunocompromised, and people with disabilities, are at higher risk for serious illness and face challenging decisions navigating a world with COVID-19.”

Find more information on the updated guidance at cdc.gov.

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