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Do you need to wear a mask where you live? Understand the CDC's new guidance

Updated August 22, 2022 at 1:51 PM ET

Editor's note: This page is no longer being updated. The last update was Aug. 22, 2022. For current data about county-level COVID-19 community levels and community transmission rates, consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for assessing a community's COVID risk in late February. The guidelines take into account rates of hospitalizations for COVID-19, the share of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients in local hospitals and the rates of new infections.

The agency says people in counties with with a high "COVID-19 community level" should still wear masks indoors; people in counties with low and medium levels can make a choice based on their personal risk level.

You can look up your county on the CDC's page here, to see what its community risk level is and whether masking is advised where you live.

Formerly, the agency's advice for masking was based on rates of new infections and test positivity rates. It encouraged fully vaccinated people to mask up indoors if they live in a place with "substantial" or "high" coronavirus transmission, and for people who were unvaccinated, to always mask up indoors in public.

The CDC continues to track case transmission levels — to see the level of transmission where you live, look up your county below.


The CDC classifies a community as having "substantial transmission" if there are 50 to 99 weekly cases per 100,000 residents or if the positivity rate is between 8.0 and 9.9% in the last seven days. (A high positivity rate indicates that the number of infections in a place may be high and that more testing is needed.)

The data for this map comes from the CDC. The color-coding is based on two metrics: the number of new cases per 100,000 residents and the percentage of coronavirus tests that come back positive in a seven-day period. If those two metrics show different levels of transmission in a given place, the CDC selects the higher level.

A county has "high transmission" if it has 100 or more weekly cases per 100,000 residents or a 10% or greater test positivity rate in the last seven days.

Health experts say that the level of community transmission is not the only factor to guide whether you choose to wear a mask in public. There are other circumstances in which vaccinated people might want to mask up — for instance, if you live with unvaccinated children or have immunocompromised family members, or if you're going somewhere without good ventilation.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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