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States are beginning to lift mask mandates. CDC data suggest it's too early.

High transmission and test rates mean that more than 99 percent of U.S. counties should keep masking up.
People attend the 133rd Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1, 2022.
People at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1.Ringo Chiu / AFP via Getty Images file

Welcome to The Data Point, a series from the NBC News Data Graphics team that explains a slice of the latest news through charts and visuals.

As states begin to relax their indoor mask mandates amid a decline in Covid case numbers, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest the new measures might be coming too soon.

Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon announced Monday that masks will soon no longer be required in schools. California Gov. Gavin Newsom will let the state’s indoor masking mandate end for vaccinated people on Feb. 15, although schoolchildren and the unvaccinated will still need to wear masks.

But according to data from the CDC, people in more than 3,200 counties — or 99 percent of the country — should be wearing masks regardless of their vaccination status. The CDC suggests wearing masks in places where the new case rate is higher than 50 cases per 100,000 or the testing positivity rate exceeds 8 percent.

The CDC issued its latest masking guidance in July during the delta variant surge. The guidance has remained since then, and the CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said last week that hospitalization and death rates were key factors in the continuing recommendations.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC Chicago on Friday that mask mandates were part of a multilayered strategy to keep kids safe in schools, combined with vaccinations among staff members and students and proper ventilation in schools.

“When you put all of those things together, the school system has been really quite safe for children, with few exceptions," Fauci said. "So before we start talking about pulling back on them, let's get the dynamic of the virus in the community low enough so that we can feel safe in pulling back on the requirement for children to wear masks."

About three dozen states and territories do not have statewide mask mandates.