NEW YORK (PIX11) – Most Americans live in places where healthy people, including students in schools, can safely take a break from wearing masks under new U.S. guidelines released Friday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined the new set of measures for communities where COVID-19 is easing its grip, with less of a focus on positive test results and more on what’s happening at hospitals.
Counties in New York and New Jersey — including New York, Westchester, Nassau and Bergen — are included in the “green” designation.
Here’s what each level of spread means, according to the CDC:
Low spread (green)
In green counties, local officials can drop any indoor masking rules. Green counties in New York include New York, Westchester, Rockland Suffolk and Nassau. Green counties in New Jersey include Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Essex and Sussex.
The CDC recommends residents of communities with low spread still stay up to date on vaccinations and undergo testing if they experience COVID-19 symptoms.
Medium spread (yellow)
Yellow means people at high risk for severe disease should be cautious, according to the CDC.
The only Northern New Jersey county with a yellow designation is Union County. The closest yellow counties in New York are Albany and Rensselaer counties.
High spread (orange)
Orange designates places where the CDC suggests masking should be universal. The CDC advises there may be additional precautions needed for those at a high risk of illness.
How a county comes to be designated green, yellow or orange will depend on its rate of new COVID-19 hospital admissions, the share of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and the rate of new cases in the community.
“We are evaluating the CDC’s new guidance, and we will update New Yorkers on potential changes as we work through the details and coordinate with all stakeholders in our school communities across our state,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
The new recommendations do not change the requirement to wear masks on public transportation and indoors in airports, train stations and bus stations. The CDC guidelines for other indoor spaces aren’t binding, meaning cities and institutions even in areas of low risk may set their own rules. And the agency says people with COVID-19 symptoms or who test positive shouldn’t stop wearing masks.
“Anybody is certainly welcome to wear a mask at any time if they feel safer wearing a mask,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a news briefing. “We want to make sure our hospitals are OK and people are not coming in with severe disease. … Anyone can go to the CDC website, find out the volume of disease in their community and make that decision.”