75% of U.S. at COVID Levels Where CDC Urges Masking

July 16, 2022 — More than three quarters of U.S. counties are now classified as having high or medium community levels for COVID-19, meaning residents should adopt or consider indoor masking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC data released Thursday showed that 35.46% of the counties have a high community level of COVID (up 14.74% from the previous week), 39.65% of the counties have a medium community level (up 1.55%), and 24.88% of the counties have a low community level (down 16.29%).

Residents of high-level counties should wear a well-fitted mask in public indoor spaces and consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities where they could be exposed, regardless of vaccination status, the CDC says.

Medium level status means residents should wear a mask if they’re immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness. Residents in low level counties should wear a mask based on personal preference.

The CDC’s community level system makes classifications based on reported COVID cases and hospitalizations. Health authorities say case counts are actually lower than the actual number because many people are testing at home and now reporting their status to health departments.

Several major urban areas moved into the high-level category this week, including Cook County, Illinois; Los Angeles and San Diego counties in California; and Fulton County, Georgia.

The New York City Health Department recommended last week that residents wear masks in indoors public spaces and around crowds outside.

In a news briefing, Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer says the county will return to a mask mandate July 29 if current trends continue.

“We are not closing anything down. We are not asking people not to gather with the people they love,” Ferrer said Thursday. “We’re asking you to take a sensible step, when there’s this much transmission with a highly transmissible variant, to go ahead and put back on a well-fitting high-filtration mask when you’re indoors around others.”

Statistically, COVID is increasing in the United States, driven by the highly transmissible BA.5 variant. The New York Times said that over the last two weeks, case numbers have increased 14%, hospitalizations 20%, and COVID-related deaths 8%.

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