CDC recommends resuming indoor masking in high COVID areas

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending people in areas at a high COVID-19 community level resume indoor masking.

In a briefing this week the director of the CDC said over 32% of Americans live in an area with a medium or high COVID-19 community level.

"Since the prior week, an additional eight percent of the US population is living in a county with a medium or high COVID-19 community level," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said. "For areas currently with high COVID-19 community levels, those in orange. We urge local leaders to encourage the use of prevention strategies like masking in public indoor settings and increasing access to testing and to treatment." 

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According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Community level map, counties in the Tampa Bay area are at a low or medium level, but doctors said that doesn’t tell the full picture.

"If you look at that map, you see green, I would say reasonably safe," Dr. Michael Teng, USF Health professor said. "Why should I mask if the map is green? But that's really not the case. There is a lot of transmission out there."

The CDC said a community’s COVID-19 level is determined by new hospitalizations for COVID-19, current hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients or hospital capacity and new COVID-19 cases. Doctors said the best indicator is the CDC’s transmission map which is in the red.

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"The fact of the matter is, we have a variant out there that is highly transmissible, even more transmissible than everything else, because it is now really the predominant variant in Florida," Teng said.

Doctors added that reported data doesn’t account for at-home COVID-19 tests which means transmission is likely higher.