CDC Relaxes Mask Guidance

There is positive news regarding the COVID-19 pandemic fight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised its guidance on wearing masks. The announcement was issued on Friday, February 25, 2022. Under the new guidelines, more than 70 percent of the U.S. population is in an area with “low” or “medium” COVID-19 community level and masks are not recommended for the general public.  In addition, the CDC reported that approximately 70 percent of the population is either vaccinated or exhibits natural immunity caused by previous COVID-19 infections. 

 

The CDC’s “COVID Community Level Rating” classification system identifies counties as being low, medium, or high risk, based on criteria including cases and COVID patient-occupied hospital beds that those counties report to the CDC. Approximately 30 percent of the population live in an area classified as a high-risk area.

 

Here is a short summary of the new guidance: 

  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and get tested if you have symptoms. 
  • If you are in a low- or medium-risk county: You can consider going out in public without a mask, both outdoors and indoors, including in schools. 
  • If you are in a high-risk county: You should wear a mask in indoor public settings, including schools. If you have been exposed to COVID-19, test positive, or have symptoms, you should wear a mask wherever you are. 
  • If you are at high risk from COVID-19 and are in a medium-risk county: You should talk to your doctor about wearing a mask. 

The change comes a month after CDC issued recommendations in January 2022, when the Omicron variant was surging, that provided specifics on the types of masks and respirators that can be used to prevent transmission of SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. At that time, the CDC specified that some types of masks and respirators, such as N95s and KN95s, provide more protection than others, but advised wearing the most protective mask that fits well and that you can wear consistently. 

 

The Agency indicated that the revised guidance is subject to change. If a threatening new variant emerges, the CDC could reverse this guidance and once again recommend wearing masks. To date, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has not responded to the CDC’s revised guidance. Usually, OSHA follows the CDC’s guidelines and incorporates them into their recommendations. OSHA does not yet have a regulation to address infectious diseases but indicated that it was going to develop one considering the pandemic and the recent court cases which halted their effort to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard requiring mandatory vaccinations of employees. 

 

PRINTING United Alliance seeks to keep the industry updated on workplace requirements related to COVID-19 workplace safety requirements. These changes are rapidly evolving, and if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Marci Kinter, mkinter@printing.org, Gary Jones, gjones@printing.org, or Adriane Harrison, aharrison@printing.org. 

 

Gary Jones Director, Environmental, Health & Safety Affairs

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