Cass County’s “high” COVID-19 community level means county residents are not quite ready to ditch the mask. (Tyson Fisher / Raymore Journal)
New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allows most Americans to ditch the masks, but Cass County residents may be among the minority who should keep them on for a little bit longer.
On Feb. 25, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky updated recommendations on prevention measures for COVID-19. With the virus slowly moving toward endemic status, the CDC is now focusing on protecting people at high risk for severe illness and preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed.
“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation with more tools to protect ourselves in our communities from COVID-19, like vaccination, boosters, broader access to testing, availability of high-quality masks, accessibility to new treatments, and improved ventilation,” Dr. Walensky said during a press briefing. “Over 200 million people have received a primary vaccine series and nearly 100 million have been boosted and millions more have had prior disease. With widespread population immunity, the overall risk of severe disease is now generally lower.”
Specifically, the CDC is lifting mask recommendations for low- and medium-risk communities. Using a new metric, the CDC is monitoring the number of new cases, hospitalizations and ICU beds to determine a county’s “COVID-19 community level.”
Residents in counties with a “low” COVID-19 community level can wear masks as they please. Those in medium-level counties should wear a mask if they are at high risk for severe illness or have social contact with someone at high risk. Everyone else can throw the masks aside.
However, people living in counties with a “high” COVID-19 community level should keep the mask on when indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status or individual risk. That includes K-12 schools and other community settings.
According to the latest data, Cass County has a “high” COVID-19 community level. Essentially, that means Cass County’s COVID-19 situation is not improving at the same rate as the rest of the nation. Consequently, the CDC encourages Cass County residents to continue wearing masks until the county’s COVID-19 community level is lowered.
Cass County Health Department Director Sarah Czech told The Raymore Journal that the CDC is still recommending residents to wear a mask indoors in public, stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, and get tested if they have symptoms. Additional precautions may be needed for people at high risk for severe illness.
As before, these are only guidelines, not mandates. Local governments and private sector businesses still have the power to require masks.
The CDC no longer requires masks on buses or vans operated by public or private school systems, including early care and education/childcare programs. However, masks are still required when using public transportation.
Go to CDC.gov or call 1-800-CDC-INFO to find a county’s community level and what prevention strategies are recommended, including where or when to mask. Those who are immunocompromised, have underlying health conditions, have disabilities, or those who live with people who are at risk should take extra precautions regardless of what level their community is in.
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