Here's what you need to know about the CDC'S new mask guidelines for spring 2022

Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments. 

Facemasks remain an important tool against the spread of COVID-19.

Along with the COVID-19 vaccines and other preventive actions like distancing, mask-wearing limits cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

In February 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines about mask wearing.

Under the updated guidelines, many Americans now can go without a mask in public.

The new guidelines do not apply to some places, like health care facilities, where the risks differ compared to general settings.

At UPMC, we still require patients, support persons, staff, and all others to always wear a mask and distance in our facilities.

Here’s what you need to know about the new mask guidelines.

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What the New CDC Masking Guidelines Say

The CDC created a tool called COVID-19 Community Levels to help determine what protective measures — including masking — are necessary in communities.

The tool divides counties into areas of low, medium, or high risk. The CDC makes the determination based on factors that include the number of new COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions, and hospital beds being used. You can check your county’s level online.

If your county is low or medium risk, you do not have to wear a mask in many public situations. In low-risk counties, you can choose to wear a mask based on your personal preference or personal COVID-19 risk.

In medium-risk counties, you should talk to your doctor about wearing a mask if you are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness. You also should consider wearing a mask when visiting with someone who is at high risk of severe illness.

If you live in a high-risk county, you should wear a mask indoors in public, even if you are fully vaccinated. This includes inside schools and other community settings. You also should wear a mask in high-risk counties if you are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness.

Are Masks Required in Schools?

With the new guidelines, the CDC lifted its recommendation for universal masking in schools and child care settings.

However, the CDC recommends masking in schools that are in high-risk counties.

Where Do I Still Need to Wear a Mask?

Even with the new guidelines, you should still wear a mask where required by law, rule, or regulation. For example, if a business requires patrons to wear a mask, you should follow that requirement. Masks also may be required on public transportation or in other travel settings.

The new guidelines do not apply to health care settings. At UPMC, we continue to require facemasks in our facilities. If you are visiting one of our facilities, you should always wear a mask and follow distancing protocols.

You also should wear a mask at any time, wherever you are, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. If you are not fully vaccinated, consider wearing a mask.

If you are immunocompromised or at severe risk for COVID-19 complications, or if you live or visit with someone who is, you may consider masking. Talk to your doctor about what decision is best for you.

Also, if you feel more comfortable wearing a mask — even if you are at low risk — do it, as masks do not cause harm. Masks protect both the wearer and the people around them, and they save lives.

At UPMC, we are committed to keeping our communities safe from COVID-19. For more about our efforts against COVID-19, visit our website.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Use and Care of Masks. Link

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.