The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only recommends ten percent of Americans to wear masks in indoor, public, settings because they live in an area of ‘high’ Covid risk, a drastic fall from last week when nearly all Americans were recommended to wear masks before the agency updated guidelines.
The updated recommendations, which now value hospitalization rate and capacity instead of only daily cases, come as Covid cases continue to plummet in the U.S. and Americans start looking towards life after Covid.
America is averaging 57,020 Covid cases every day, a 25 percent drop over the past week and a drop of more than 90 percent since the Omicron surge peaked at 800,000 cases per day in mid-January.
Many states and localities were already dropping masks even before the CDC revised guideline last week. Hawaii is the only state in America that has not either lifted its mask mandate, or set a date in the coming weeks to do so. City level officials in New York, San Francisco and Chicago have lifted or relaxed mask orders as well amid falling cases.
Under initial guidelines revealed last week, 30 percent of Americans were living in an area where residents were recommended to wear masks indoors. In only one week, that figure has slashed by a third, per the CDC.
Last week, the CDC revised its COVID-19 risk assessment metrics, and dropped the number of Americans living in areas of ‘high’ risk from 95% to 30% (left). People in these areas are recommended to wear a mask in indoor public places. Updated figures revealed Thursday drop the number of Americans living in ‘high’ risk areas down to only ten percent, mainly concentrated in West Virginia and Kentucky (right)
Counties still under mask recommendations from the CDC are largely clustered in West Virginia and Kentucky, two states that among the nationwide leaders in Covid hospitalization rate. West Virginia leads the nation in hospitalization rate, with 35 of every 100,000 residents hospitalized with the virus every day. Kentucky has the third highest hospitalization rate, at 23 per every 100,000 residents daily.
Neither state has a mask mandate, though, and CDC guidance is not binding. This means that it will be up to individuals living in these counties to decide for themselves if they want to abide by the agency’s recommendations.
Americans are largely looking forward to putting the pandemic behind them, though. The CDC guidelines were revised after weeks of pressure from state level officials and every day Americans who are ready to return to normal life.
An AP-NORC survey conducted last month found that only 24 percent of Americans are still very concerned about themselves or someone in their family catching the virus.
This week was finally when the federal government budged, after dragging its feet for weeks on rolling back pandemic related mandates.
At the State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced new plans for the U.S. to move forward and control the pandemic without the need for lockdowns or other potentially-destructive mandates.
Biden announced that the country had increased its purchase order of Pfizer’s Paxlovid from 10 million to 20 million courses.
The drug, which received authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) late last year, has been deemed as the most effective treatment post-infection but the company has reportedly had issues with production.
‘If you get COVID-19, the Pfizer pill reduces your chances of ending up in the hospital by 90 percent,’ Biden said.
‘I’ve ordered more pills than anyone in the world has. Pfizer is working overtime to get us a million pills this month and more than double that next month.’
With production issues somewhat quelled, and the U.S. soon to have more access to the drug, Biden announced a ‘Test to Treat’ program.
Under the new system, any Americans can receive a Covid test at a pharmacy, and if they test positive they will be offered courses of Paxlovid for free.
Only pharmacy clinics will be allowed to distribute the drug, though, as the White House clarified Wednesday afternoon that a prescription would still be required. Pharmacists are not authorized to prescribe the drug.
The White House also announced Wednesday morning that it would create a ‘one stop’ website where Americans could find information about the pandemic, along with putting more resources into the vaccine rollout, and increasing the nation’s Covid test manufacturing capacity.
Plans going forward also include ramping up domestic production of tests, antivirals and masks, expanding access to public health resources and information, helping Americans manage ‘long Covid’ symptoms and launching the ‘Test to Treat’ program, which should expand access to Covid therapeutics.
It also gives funding to schools and daycare centers to improve their ability to prevent transmission, supplying them with Covid tests and resources needed to improve ventilation.
These changes to federal Covid policy, combined with declining cases and growing vaccine protection – nearly 90 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one shot of a vaccine – have experts hopeful this spring and summer will be ‘normal’ for a majority of Americans.
Dr Scott Gottlieb, former director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told CNBC’s Squawk Box on Thursday that he does not expect the U.S. to experience another Covid surge in the coming months, and if another does occur it will happen as early as fall or winter of this year.
‘We’re gonna have a pretty normal spring and summer,’ he said, while also praising efforts by the White House to keep schools open by investing in tests and better ventilation.
The number of Americans hospitalized and dying from Covid is dropping as well, another sign the country may soon be able to make a full return to normal.
The U.S. is recording 1,639 Covid deaths every day, a six percent drop over the past week. Hospitalizations with Covid have fallen 44 percent over the last 14 days.