CDC: About 95% of Americans over 16 have some level of COVID immunity

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that it's dropping some of its more restrictive COVID-19 safety recommendations.

The CDC said Americans no longer need to socially distance or quarantine after coming in close contact with a person infected with COVID. An estimated 95% of Americans older than 16 years old have acquired some level of immunity, either from being vaccinated or infected, agency officials said.

"We have a huge proportion of the population has either been vaccinated or naturally infected or both," said University of South Florida Health's Dr. Jay Wolfson. "We've gone from a pandemic stage to pretty much an endemic stage where this thing is kind of constant in our society."

Viruses become endemic when they have reached a point where they're no longer causing a significant disruption in our daily lives. Wolfson said the CDC likely also looked at the current death rate, which is much lower than it was at the height of the pandemic.

"I think the CDC is being very pragmatic and also very cautious, looking at the data. Most of us in public health say we're headed into the next stage," said Wolfson. "I think we should be proud of where we've gotten and should not say, 'how come it's taken so long?' Two and a half years is a long time. But back in the days of the 1920s, when we had the Spanish flu, tens of millions of people died from this disease and it took decades before we really figured out how to manage it. We're really ahead of the curve."

The CDC isn't doing away with its entire COVID safety guidance. It's still recommending people wear masks indoors in areas of high community spread, which includes all of Tampa Bay and most of Florida.

It's also encouraging people with COVID symptoms to still get tested and urging people who test positive to stay home for at least five days, while wearing a mask around others for 10 days.