By Samuetta Hill Drew
Two years ago, when I wrote my first safety article about a then new virus called Coronavirus COVID-19, I could not imagine this topic would be something I would still have to write about. Because of the sheer negative paths of destruction COVID-19 took within the past two years, there was never a lack of information which needed to be shared to help keep the general population safe. It was and continues to be a public safety issue.
COVID-19 has not by any means disappeared. It is an imminent threat that is still real, but with the many different safety initiatives taken, like the discovery of a vaccine and precautionary measures such as face masks, social distancing and hand washing, the numbers in America with the virus appears to be lessening
Also, another contributing factor to lowering COVID-19 numbers are our government’s initiatives of free vaccines, home testing kits and N95 masks. These have favorably impacted many communities, along with the safety measures taken by the public and private sectors. These favorable outcomes have influenced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) face masks guidelines.
The CDC announced a change to the metrics it uses to determine whether to recommend face masks, shifting from looking at COVID-19 case counts to a more holistic view of risk from the coronavirus to a community. The CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, has said “a change has been in the works.”
She further stated, “We must consider hospital capacity as an additional important barometer. Our hospitals need to be able to take care of people with heart attacks and strokes. Our emergency departments can’t be so overwhelmed that patients with emergent issues have to wait in line.”
Therefore, the CDC relaxed mask guidelines for up to 70 percent of the U.S. population, or 65 percent of U.S. counties, last week. People in counties with low and medium levels of COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks in public.
The agency said that people with an increased risk of severe COVID-19, such as immunocompromised people, should talk with their healthcare providers about removing masks if they live in a medium-level county. People in counties with high levels of COVID-19, which is 37 percent of U.S. counties right now, should still wear masks in indoor public settings, including schools.
People with COVID-19 symptoms, a positive COVID-19 test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should continue to mask up, regardless of transmission rates in the area, the CDC said.
The CDC has a color-coded map. Green indicates counties with low COVID-19 rates, yellow for medium and orange for high rates of the virus. Keep in mind, Alabama was one of the many southern states with low vaccination rates, so check your particular county.
Dr. Walensky said these new guidelines are subject to change. “None of us know what the future may hold for us and for this virus. We need to be prepared, and we need to be ready for whatever comes next. We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing when our levels are low…”
Therefore, to Keep an Eye on Safety for you and your loved ones, check your county’s COVID-19 level based upon the color code on the CDC map. Also check your healthcare provider, if you are unsure and continue to use an element of common sense. Note, the CDC continues to urge people to get vaccinated.