The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Friday it is relaxing its mask guidelines for counties with “low” or “medium” community levels, a metric based on new COVID-19 hospitalizations, new COVID-19 cases and hospital capacity.
Previously, the metrics were based entirely on levels of COVID-19 transmission, which meant that about 99 percent of the population was recommended to wear a mask. Under the new guidelines, that number’s dropped to only about 28 percent.
Citizens in counties with a low community level, indicated by a green coloring on the CDC’s community levels by county map, are told only to stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and to get tested if you experience COVID-19 symptoms. Citizens in counties with a medium community level, indicated by an orange coloring, are recommended to wear masks only if they are at high risk of severe illness. And citizens in counties with a high community level, indicated by a red coloring, are recommended to continue wearing masks indoors.
Regardless of community level, the CDC still recommends wearing a mask if you have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Delaware County is currently still considered to have a high community level. According to COVID Act Now, over the last week Delaware County has had 19.8 daily new cases per 100,000 citizens and an average of 52 hospitalized patients. Overall, 47.8 percent of people in Delaware County have received their entire series of COVID-19 vaccines, and only about 21.7 percent of people have also received a booster shot.
It is not yet known how or whether Ball State will respond to these new changes. Purdue University and Indiana University (IU) are both among the universities to loosen or remove their mask mandates entirely — beginning Feb. 18, masks at Purdue were made optional except in “instructional, research and health care settings” and, effective March 4, IU will make masks optional for all spaces besides “health care spaces and some laboratories.”
While Tippecanoe County, where Purdue is located, has a medium community level according to the CDC, Monroe County, where IU is located, still has a high community level.
If you have not yet received your COVID-19 vaccine, you can find a vaccination location near you and sign up for an appointment at ourshot.in.gov.