Most Individuals — and Utahns — reside in locations the place wholesome individuals, together with college students in faculties, can safely take a break from sporting masks beneath new U.S. pointers launched Friday.
The Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention outlined the brand new set of measures for communities the place COVID-19 is easing its grip, with much less of a deal with constructive take a look at outcomes and extra on what’s occurring at hospitals.
The brand new system vastly modifications the look of the CDC’s threat map and places greater than 70% of the U.S. inhabitants in counties the place the coronavirus is posing a low or medium menace to hospitals. These are the individuals who can cease sporting masks, the company mentioned.
Carbon, Emery, Juab, Millard, Sevier, Utah and Wayne counties are thought-about Utah’s low-risk areas.
Salt Lake County is taken into account a medium-risk space, together with Beaver, Field Elder, Cache, Daggett, Davis, Duchesne, Garfield, Grand, Iron, Kane, Morgan, Wealthy, Sanpete, Summit, Uintah, Wasatch, Washington, and Weber counties. In such areas, individuals at excessive threat for extreme illness ought to train warning, the CDC suggested.
The company continues to be advising that individuals, together with schoolchildren, put on masks the place the chance of COVID-19 is excessive. That’s the scenario in about 37% of U.S. counties, the place about 28% of Individuals reside. In Utah, that features Tooele and San Juan counties.
The CDC says officers in high-risk counties ought to mandate masks — but it surely’s solely a suggestion. All selections on masks mandates are being left as much as native officers.
Utah reported 425 new COVID-19 circumstances on Friday, the eighth day in a row that the reported case rely has been beneath 850. The variety of Utahns hospitalized with COVID-19 had fallen by 23, to 395. Nonetheless, there have been 101 individuals with COVID-19 hospitalized in Utah intensive care models, 9 greater than on Thursday.
The brand new suggestions don’t change the requirement to put on masks on public transportation and indoors in airports, practice stations and bus stations, which implies masks should nonetheless be worn on UTA buses and trains and at Salt Lake Metropolis Worldwide Airport.
In Utah, the brand new steering isn’t more likely to result in vital change, mentioned Tom Hudachko, director of communications for the Utah Division of Well being.
“We don’t have any mandates in place,” he famous “I believe perhaps final week lots of locations would have used it to carry mandates. There’s clearly none of that right here, and there’s not a lot of it wherever within the nation.”
Nicholas Rupp, spokesman for the Salt Lake County Well being Division, agreed.
”I assume it’s truthful to say that it’s not going to have a big effect domestically with necessities,” Rupp mentioned. “However it could change some individuals’s habits. Those that observe suggestions very intently — there could also be some modifications there.”
Dr. Angela Dunn, government director of the division, is anticipated to launch new pointers for Salt Lake County residents within the coming days — probably on Monday, Rupp mentioned.
Whereas the influence of the CDC’s modifications will not be substantial, the brand new steering could encourage companies who’ve been on the fence about bringing workers again to the workplace, mentioned Dee Brewer, government director of the Downtown Alliance of the Salt Lake Chamber.
The proportion of workers working in downtown Salt Lake Metropolis, in comparison with 2019, was flat at 38% for many of 2021, Brewer mentioned, and began climbing in September. The omicron surge in December and January moved workplace attendance to 35%, but it surely’s climbing greater now than it has since 2020, in response to Chamber information.
As of Feb. 15, 48% of workers who labored in downtown Salt Lake Metropolis places of work in 2019 have returned to work face-to-face, in response to Chamber information.
Downtown eating places, bars and performances have attracted guests at close to pre-pandemic ranges, Brewer mentioned. The variety of visits to downtown companies is at 86% of its 2019 stage, in response to Chamber information.
”It’s fascinating that individuals are extra snug coming [downtown] for all these different causes, proper?” Brewer mentioned. “… Which tells me that it’s not simply in regards to the virus or in regards to the protections from the virus.”
The CDC’s up to date steering will “sign the return to regular,” Brewer mentioned, however many companies have already reconsidered how typically workers want to assemble head to head. And companies need to set their very own necessities for masking, relying on their setting, he mentioned, such because the variations between working situations at a development website and a restaurant.
The CDC pointers for indoor areas, apart from transportation, aren’t binding, that means cities and establishments even in areas of low threat could set their very own guidelines. And the company says individuals with COVID-19 signs or who take a look at constructive shouldn’t cease sporting masks.
However with safety from immunity rising — each from vaccination and an infection — the general threat of extreme illness is now usually decrease, the CDC mentioned.
“Anyone is definitely welcome to put on a masks at any time in the event that they really feel safer sporting a masks,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky mentioned in a information briefing. “We need to make certain our hospitals are OK and individuals are not coming in with extreme illness. … Anybody can go to the CDC web site, discover out the amount of illness of their group and make that call.”
Since July, CDC’s transmission-prevention steering to communities has targeted on two measures — the speed of recent COVID-19 circumstances and the share of constructive take a look at outcomes over the earlier week.
Based mostly on these measures, company officers suggested individuals to put on masks indoors in counties the place unfold of the virus was deemed substantial or excessive. This week, greater than 3,000 of the nation’s greater than 3,200 counties — better than 95% — had been listed as having substantial or excessive transmission.
That steering has more and more been ignored, nevertheless, with states, cities, counties and college districts throughout the U.S. asserting plans to drop masks mandates amid declining COVID-19 circumstances, hospitalizations and deaths.
With many Individuals already taking off their masks, the CDC’s shift received’t make a lot sensible distinction for now, mentioned Andrew Noymer, a public well being professor on the College of California, Irvine. However it would assist when the subsequent wave of an infection — a chance within the fall or winter — begins threatening hospital capability once more, he mentioned.
“There will probably be extra waves of COVID. And so I believe it is sensible to present individuals a break from masking,” Noymer mentioned. “If we’ve continuous masking orders, they could grow to be a complete joke by the point we actually want them once more.”
The CDC can be providing a color-coded map — with counties designated as orange, yellow or inexperienced — to assist information native officers and residents. In inexperienced counties, native officers can drop any indoor masking guidelines. Yellow means individuals at excessive threat for extreme illness ought to be cautious. Orange designates locations the place the CDC suggests masking ought to be common.
How a county involves be designated inexperienced, yellow or orange will rely on its charge of recent COVID-19 hospital admissions, the share of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 sufferers and the speed of recent circumstances in the neighborhood.
The hospitalization metric could also be deceptive in Salt Lake County, Rupp famous. “So a lot of our hospitals take sufferers from exterior our county — from Davis County, from Utah County, from Idaho, from Wyoming,” he mentioned. “So giving hospitalizations a better weight will not be an excellent barometer for what’s occurring in that jurisdiction.”
Masks necessities have already got led to many of the U.S. in current weeks. Los Angeles on Friday started permitting individuals to take away their masks whereas indoors if they’re vaccinated, and indoor masks mandates in Washington state and Oregon will probably be lifted in March.
In an indication of the political divisions over masks, Florida’s governor on Thursday introduced new suggestions referred to as “Buck the CDC” that really discourage masks sporting.
State well being officers are usually happy with the brand new steering and “excited with how that is being rolled out,” mentioned Dr. Marcus Plescia of the Affiliation of State and Territorial Well being Officers.
“That is the best way we have to go. I believe that is taking us ahead with a brand new path happening within the pandemic,” Plescia mentioned. “However we’re nonetheless specializing in security. We’re nonetheless specializing in stopping demise and sickness.”
The CDC mentioned the brand new system will probably be helpful in predicting future surges and urged communities with wastewater surveillance techniques to make use of that information too.
“If or when new variants emerge or the virus surges, we’ve extra methods to guard ourselves and our communities than ever earlier than,” Walensky mentioned.
— Tribune reporters Scott D. Pierce and Connor Sanders contributed to this report. The Related Press Well being and Science Division receives help from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Division of Science Training. The AP is solely chargeable for all content material.