Approximately 70% of Americans live in areas deemed low or medium risk for severe COVID-19 and can go maskless, according to new guidance released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The new guidance is based on a new tool the CDC will be using to assess individual communities' level of COVID-19 risk, called COVID-19 Community Levels. Community levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by analyzing hospital beds being used by COVID-19-infected persons, new hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.
The new framework is intended to help communities and individuals decide what preventive steps to take based on the latest data, but patients may still have questions regarding how to determine their community level, what precautions to take based on the level, and how to best protect themselves against infection if they are immunocompromised. In the slides below, key takeaways from the CDC's new guidance to help you prepare.
CDC combines the following 3 metrics when measuring COVID-19 community levels: new COVID-19 admissions per 100 000 population in the past 7 days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by persons with COVID-19, and total new COVID-19 cases per 100 000 population in the past 7 days.
New COVID-19 admissions and the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied represent the current potential for strain on the health system. Data on new cases acts as an early warning indicator of potential increases in health system strain in the event of COVID-19 surge.
Patient: My community has <200 new COVID-19 cases AND <10 new COVID-19 admissions. What is my COVID-19 risk level?
Community level is low if the area has <200 new COVID-19 cases/100 000 population the past 7 days AND <10 new COVID-19 admissions/100 000 population the past 7 days.
No. The CDC no longer requires use of face masks in areas of low risk. Patients living in these areas should still stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters and continue to follow CDC guidance for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if exposed to COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms.
Patient: My community has 139 new COVID-19 cases AND 19 new COVID-19 admissions. What is my COVID-19 risk level?
Community level is medium if the area has <200 new COVID-19 cases/100 000 population the past 7 days AND between 10-19.9 new COVID-19 admissions/100 000 population the past 7 days.
The CDC recommends the following preventive behaviors:
Patient: My community has >210 new COVID-19 cases AND 11% of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients (7-day average). What is my COVID-19 risk level?
Community level is high if the area has ≥200 new COVID-19 cases/100 000 population the past 7 days AND ≥10% of staffed inpatients beds occupied by COVID-19 patients (7-day average).
Yes. The CDC recommends individuals who live in high-risk areas to wear well-fitted masks indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status (including in K-12 schools and other indoor community settings).