On Friday, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention quietly updated its masking policy and removed its recommendation for universal masking in health care settings, The Hill reports. The new guidelines say that health care facilities in areas that are not experiencing high levels of Covid transmission can “choose not to require” masks.
“Updates were made to reflect the high levels of vaccine-and infection-induced immunity and the availability of effective treatments and prevention tools,” the CDC’s website states.
Masks are still recommended for people in health care settings who are suspected to have Covid, who have been in close contact with someone with Covid, or who work in a facility that has experienced a Covid outbreak. Per the guidance, health care facilities “might also consider using or recommending” masks when caring for immunocompromised patients.
Some public health experts have criticized the change in guidance, arguing that it puts vulnerable patients at risk at a time when Covid is still killing about 400 people a day. Others have lauded the choice. Holly Harmon, a senior vice president for the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, told CBS News, “After more than two years, residents will get to see more of their caregivers’ smiling faces, and our dedicated staff will get a moment to breathe.”
Earlier this month, President Biden declared on 60 Minutes that “the pandemic is over.” The CDC seems to agree.