With COVID-19 cases rising once again in the U.S., some municipalities are having to decide whether to stick with mask mandates or drop them.
This week, Washington, D.C. dropped its indoor mask mandate. Private businesses can still require mask-wearing and masks are still required on public transportation.
"Instead of following a blanket mandate, residents, visitors, and workers will be advised to follow risk-based guidance from DC Health that accounts for current health metrics and a person's vaccination status," said a statement from Mayor Muriel Bowser's office last week.
But nearby Montgomery County, Maryland reinstated its mask mandate Saturday after seven days of what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined as "substantial transmission" of COVID-19.
Denver is also reinstating its indoor mask mandate, according to FOX 31. The outlet reported the mandate will apply to indoor public spaces and will allow for some exemptions. Businesses will have the option to require masks or require proof of vaccination.
Indoor masking is also coming back to Santa Cruz County, California, according to KTVU. Health officials said they made the decision based on current case rates, and what they see on the horizon. The deputy health officers said hospitalizations were down to zero recently, but now that number is between 5 and 8. Officials said they hope masking up indoors will help stop the trend.
The move came after nearby Marin County, California was the first to drop its mask mandate in the Bay Area earlier this month.
For those dropping mask mandates, U.S. health officials believe it may be too soon.
Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that "prematurely" dropping rules for face coverings could add "an extra degree of risk" amid a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in many areas across the country. Speaking on NPR’s "Morning Edition" Monday, Fauci urged officials to take every precaution necessary due to fears of a potential winter spike ahead.
"When you have a dynamic like that... you really gotta be careful," Fauci said. "Masks are not going to be forever for sure. The more people that get vaccinated, the more people that get boosted, the lower the level of infection in the community will be, and then you start thinking about pulling back on masks."
Health officials are concerned the U.S. could see a fifth wave this winter but hope it won’t be as intense as previous ones as people get the COVID-19 booster shots and children as young as 5 years old are getting vaccinated.
Currently, the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in the United States stands just above 91,000, according to the CDC. About a month ago, the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases stood just about 64,000.
According to the CDC, more than 230 million people 5 years and older have at least received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, representing 73.9% of the total demographic. Last week, The White House said about 10% of eligible kids aged 5 to 11 have received a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine since its approval for their age group earlier this month.
Parts of Europe are reimposing lockdowns and restrictions due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. The White House said that’s unlikely to happen in the U.S.
"We are not headed in that direction," Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters Monday.
Austin Williams, Megan Ziegler and the Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.