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Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

New metrics for measuring the threat of COVID-19 show that more than 90% of people in the United States now live in counties with a low to medium threat and generally don’t need to wear face masks anymore, the CDC said Thursday.

Last week, the CDC said it would start looking at COVID-19 risk in communities by focusing on pandemic-related hospital strain rather than case numbers alone. On Thursday, the agency released a color-coded map showing mostly green and yellow counties that indicate low to medium “community levels.” High-level counties were colored red.

“As of March 3, more than 90% of the U.S. population is in a location with low or medium COVID-19 Community Level,” the CDC said Thursday on its website. “Going forward this data will be updated on Thursdays. This data will help counties make informed decisions and take appropriate public health actions.”

People in high-risk areas need to keep wearing masks and take other precautions in public indoor settings, including schools, the federal agency said.

One important caveat: The CDC says people should also base their mask decision on personal preference and people should still wear a mask if they have COVID symptoms, have been exposed to somebody with COVID, clomid upper stomach pain or have tested positive, regardless of where they live.

The federal government still requires masks in airports, on airplanes, and on public transit.

The CDC uses three metrics to evaluate community threat: new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, the percentage of inpatient hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days.

NBC News reported that hospitalizations dropped sharply in every state in the last month and that only Oregon and West Virginia had declines of less than 50%.

Sources

CDC: “U.S. COVID-19 Community Levels by County Map,” “CDC Updates COVID-19 Community Levels,” “COVID-19 Community Levels.”

NBC News: “CDC numbers show more than 90 percent of people in U.S. can ditch masks.”

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