The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to relax its mask guidance Friday, according to two sources familiar with the plans.
The new guidance — which will most likely loosen indoor masking requirements — will come as most states have already lifted or announced plans to lift their indoor masking mandates as the omicron-driven wave of the coronavirus subsides.
It's the first change to the agency's indoor mask guidance since July.
Amid last summer's surge of the delta variant, the CDC recommended universal indoor masking in areas with substantial or high transmission after it said vaccinated people could stop wearing masks.
In January, the CDC added to its mask guidance, saying N95 and KN95 masks offer the best protection against Covid.
Covid case numbers continue to decline across most of the country. The seven-day average of daily new cases is around 75,000, down by 38 percent from the previous week, according to CDC data.
Since as early as December, some health experts have been pushing the CDC to update its mask guidance, basing it on criteria other than transmission, as data show omicron infections generally produce milder symptoms and fewer deaths than previous variants.
The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said at a briefing last week that as the pandemic eases, public health officials want to give Americans “a break” from mitigation measures, such as wearing masks.
Still, she said, people should continue to wear masks, 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.
President Joe Biden is expected to highlight the guidance, as well as the administration’s broader strategy for the pandemic, in his State of the Union address Tuesday, said two people familiar with the plans, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
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