According to the most recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people in the United States now live in counties where those who are healthy no longer need to wear masks, but there are still about 472 counties nationwide where mask-wearing is recommended.
Hillsborough County, Florida, is one of them.
Gov. Ron DeSantis visited that county on Wednesday, approaching a group of students wearing masks who were standing behind a podium at the University of South Florida, where the Republican governor was scheduled to hold a news conference. He stated to the students, “You are not required to wear those masks. I mean, please remove them.”
However, according to the CDC’s most recent recommendations, people should continue to wear masks indoors in counties with “high” levels of Covid-19, such as Hillsborough County.
DeSantis called the students’ use of masks “ridiculous,” but they were following CDC guidelines. DeSantis, according to Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, was “bullying” the students for wearing masks.
DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw responded to the governor’s remarks on Twitter: “After two years of propaganda that terrified and manipulated young people, someone had to say it. Breathe freely, feel safe, and be content.”
According to Benjamin, most of the counties in the United States that still have high Covid-19 levels, based on the CDC’s updated metrics, may be affected by a variety of factors, including low Covid-19 vaccination rates, limited access to health resources, or the continued spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Some of the counties with “high” Covid-19 levels are in states that either never had indoor mask mandates or lifted them earlier in the pandemic.
California repealed its requirement for unvaccinated people to wear indoor masks last week. Covid-19 levels are “high” in 11 counties in that state. Illinois also lifted its statewide indoor mask requirement, and six counties have “high” Covid-19 levels.
On March 11, Oregon and Washington plan to repeal their laws requiring masks in public places. According to the CDC’s updated metrics, four counties in Oregon have “high” levels of Covid-19, and four counties in Washington have “high” levels.
Only one state and one US territory, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, still have state or territorial indoor mask mandates and have not announced plans to repeal them.
“‘OK, we governors are no longer going to manage it statewide,’ the states say. We’re going to remove a mandate from our perspective and allow you to customize this,’ “He stated.
With the updated CDC metrics at the county level, “The brilliance of what the CDC did was that they were able to gather data at the local community level, allowing local communities to decide when to remove masks. However, it also allows them to re-mask, change testing policies as needed, open and close things, and so on “According to Benjamin. “I hope that this not only puts it back in the hands of local elected officials, but also, more importantly, puts it back in the hands of local public health officials. That’s what I’m hoping.”
The CDC’s “Covid-19 community level” metrics are based in a community on three pieces of data: new Covid-19 hospitalizations, hospital capacity, and new Covid-19 cases. On the CDC’s website, you can find a list of US counties and their current Covid-19 levels.
People in counties with low or medium Covid-19 community levels no longer need to wear masks indoors, according to CDC guidance updated last week, unless they are immunocompromised or at “high risk” for severe Covid-19, in which case they should consult with their health care provider about wearing a mask.