CDC Relaxes COVID-19 Mask Guidelines For Health Care Workers

Health care workers are no longer urged to wear coronavirus masks indoors unless they are in areas of high COVID-19 virus transmission, according to updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

The latest recommendation, published on Friday, applies to all U.S. settings where health care is delivered, including nursing homes and private homes.

“When SARS-CoV-2 Community Transmission levels are not high, healthcare facilities could choose not to require universal source control,” the CDC said. Source control refers to use of respirators or well-fitting face masks.

The CDC now says that health care workers no longer need to wear a mask indoors unless they are in areas of high virus transmission. Boxes full of medical-grade personal protective equipment are seen at a distribution center in Pasadena, California.

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A high risk of community transmission would include instances where there are suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases or other respiratory infections. This includes being near someone who has had close contact with a person infected with the virus within the previous 10 days.

“Individuals might also choose to continue using source control based on personal preference, informed by their perceived level of risk for infection based on their recent activities (e.g., attending crowded indoor gatherings with poor ventilation) and their potential for developing severe disease,” the CDC said.

The agency said its revised guidelines for health care workers “reflect the high levels of vaccine-and infection-induced immunity and the availability of effective treatments and prevention tools.”

Protective masks hang in a decontamination unit in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Protective masks hang in a decontamination unit in Somerville, Massachusetts.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has continued to drop in the U.S. from its pandemic peak in January. President Joe Biden earlier this month declared that the “pandemic is over,” explaining that the virus “basically is not where it was.”

As of last week, nearly 68% of the U.S. population had received the primary series of vaccines, and nearly 49% received their first booster, according to the CDC’s website.

The CDC continues to recommend that members of the public wear a mask if infected or if they had recent contact with an infected person. Masks are also recommended in places where there’s a high risk of infection, such as around infected individuals, and for anyone who’s at high risk of getting sick and is in an area where they could get exposed, such as an indoor public setting.