The Centers for Disease Control announced it is easing its indoor mask guidance for the public and in schools.
The new metrics used to determine whether a mask should be used indoors will now take into account hospitalizations, local hospitalization capacity and new COVID-19 cases.
Those metrics will be used to create three levels of risk:
- Low: Indoor masks are not needed
- Medium: People who are at high risk of severe COVID should consult with their doctor about prevention measures including masks
- High: Indoor mask use is recommended
The CDC also updated its guidance for schools. It now only recommends universal masking for areas in the high category.
Under the new guidance, more than half of U.S. counties would not currently fall into the "high" risk level, the CDC stated.
The CDC says it is adding a tool on its website for people to find out what category their local area is in.
"We want to give people a break from things like mask wearing when our levels are low and then have the ability to reach for them again should things get worse in the future," said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
The new guidance comes as almost every state in the country has either dropped its mask mandate or announced plans to lift the mandate soon. Hawaii is the only state in the country to make no such announcement.
The U.S. has seen a dramatic drop in COVID-19 cases since the omicron variant peaked in January.
The CDC says there's been a 43% drop in cases in the seven-day average when compared to the prior week.
News 3 spoke with grocery store shoppers in Norfolk and got mixed reaction.
"If we don't have to wear masks at a grocery store, why do we have to wear them at school when it's pretty much the same?" ODU student Carlos Herrera said.
"I think we should keep the masks on and be safe," another shopper said.
News 3 also spoke with pharmacy shoppers in Norfolk. This comes as a major milestone in the pandemic, but for some, it may take some getting used to.
"I think you should wear your mask. I think they are uncomfortable and but helping. They are not obviously going to keep the virus away, but they are helping some. They are at least help keep it away," a young Amelia said.
"I don’t wear it for me - I wear it for other people like this one," David, Amelia's father, said.
Some are looking forward to a life without masks.
"I do feel more freer. I feel like a lot of things are being lifted and we’re getting back to normal," one Hampton Roads resident said.
The CDC is shifting its focus to COVID hospitalizations instead of case numbers.
"We have to start moving from a pandemic to endemic stage where people can relax their stance a little bit," Dr. Ryan Light with Greenbrier Family Medicine said.