CDC refuses to lift airplane mask mandate despite easing of Covid guidelines

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Skift grip

Lifting the airplane mask mandate would have been a terribly premature victory lap given that the fight against Covid is far from over.

Rashaad Jordan

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday significantly relaxed its Covid-19 guidelines on when Americans should wear masks indoors, including in schools, a move that means 72% of the population will reside in communities where indoor face coverings are no longer recommended.

The new masking guidelines shift from a focus on the rate of transmission of Covid-19 to local hospitalizations, hospital capacity and infection rates.

Under previous guidelines, 95% of US counties were considered to be experiencing high transmission, leaving just 5% of US counties under the agency’s recommendation to drop indoor mask requirements.

These measures come as the wave of coronavirus infections caused by the easily spread Omicron variant drastically declines in the United States and states such as New Jersey have announced plans to lift indoor mask mandates for schools and other places. public in the coming days.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told a press conference that travelers will still be required to wear masks on planes, trains and buses as well as at airports and train stations for the time being.

Those requirements expire March 18, and the CDC will review them in the coming weeks, she said.

With the pandemic now two years old, many Americans are tired of wearing masks. Additionally, studies have shown that for those vaccinated, infections with the Omicron variant were less severe and less likely to cause hospitalization and death than previous versions of the coronavirus.

The CDC said universal school masking would now only be advised in communities with a “high” level of Covid-19. The previous recommendation recommended masking in schools, regardless of the level of Covid transmission.

Walensky said the agency is focusing on serious illnesses and the risk of filling hospitals.

“We need to be flexible and be able to say we need to loosen up our layers of preventative measures when things get better,” Walensky said. “And then we have to be able to dial them in again, if we have a new variant, during the surge.”

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Additional reporting by Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Caroline Humer and Bill Berkrot)

This article was written by Julie Steenhuysen from Reuters and has been legally licensed through Industry Dive Content market. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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