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CDC ‘cautiously optimistic’ about downward trend in omicron cases

As the pandemic outlook improves, officials want to give Americans a break from mitigation measures, such as masking, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.
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Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday she is "cautiously optimistic" about the downward trend in omicron-fueled Covid-19 cases.

The United States is averaging about 147,000 Covid cases per day, a 40 percent decrease from the previous week, Walensky said during a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing.

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The nation is reporting a seven-day average of about 9,500 hospital admissions per day, she said, a decrease of about 28 percent from the previous week. Average daily deaths are down about 9 percent, to 2,200 per day.

As the pandemic outlook improves across the U.S., public health officials want to give Americans “a break” from mitigation measures, such as wearing masks, Walensky said.

In recent weeks, a number of states and large private businesses have announced they are dropping their indoor mask mandates as the surge caused by the omicron variant has abated. Coachella, a major music and arts festival taking place in April, said this week it will not require attendees to wear masks, or provide proof of vaccination or a negative test.

“I know everyone is anxious to move beyond this pandemic and some of the ways we have had to change how we live over the last two years,” Walensky said. “We all share the same goal: to get to the point where Covid-19 is no longer disrupting our daily lives.”

The CDC is preparing to loosen its indoor masking guidelines to states as early as next week.

Walensky said Wednesday that the agency is considering new benchmarks for masking, basing it on criteria other than transmission — for instance, the level of severe disease in a community or hospital capacity.

The new changes, which she said will be updated "soon," will emphasize the importance of other pandemic metrics besides Covid-19 cases.

"Our hospitals need to be able to take care of people with heart attacks and strokes," she said. "Our emergency departments can't be so overwhelmed that patients with emergent issues have to wait in line."

Still, people should continue to wear a mask, regardless of the level of community transmission, if they are feeling unwell, have recently tested positive for Covid or have been exposed to the virus, she said.

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