CDC to announce eased COVID-19 mask guidelines on Friday

The changes will be announced on Friday

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is planning to announce changes to the metrics that the agency uses in recommending facial mask coverings.

The change will move from focusing on COVID-19 case counts to taking a more holistic view about a community's risk from the coronavirus. Current guidelines advise face coverings for individuals in communities that have substantial or high transmission.

Around 95% of U.S. counties meet the criteria for substantial or high transmission, according to the Associated Press. The agency will announce the changes on Friday.

Most Americans will not live in areas where the CDC is recommending masking under the new guidelines, which factor hospitalizations and local hospital capacity in addition to the number of cases.

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Rochelle Walensky, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. Photographer: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. Photographer: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Photographer: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

During a Feb. 9 White House press conference, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration was "discussing what the next phase of the pandemic looks like," noting that it's an "ongoing process."

"I would say that we are internally discussing, of course, what it looks like to be in the phase of the fight against the COVID pandemic where it is not disrupting everyone’s daily lives; where people are moving on and living, you know, lives free of, hopefully, masks at some point and many of the restrictions that we’ve all been living through over the past two years," Psaki said.

Two people with knowledge of the shift in guidelines spoke with the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

Several states have dropped their indoor mask mandates as coronavirus cases nationwide are on the decline, as 77,458 new cases were recorded on Feb. 23, according to the CDC. That is the lowest that daily coronavirus cases have been at since late November 2021.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that the agency's approach will advise "enhanced prevention efforts" in certain communities.

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Atlanta, Georgia, USA: Close up of entrance sign for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sign located near the 1700 block of Clifton Road in Atlanta, Georgia, on the Emory University campus. Vertical composition.

Atlanta, Georgia, USA: Close up of entrance sign for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sign located near the 1700 block of Clifton Road in Atlanta, Georgia, on the Emory University campus. Vertical composition. (iStock)

"Moving forward, our approach will advise enhanced prevention efforts in communities with a high volume of severe illness and will also focus on protecting our healthcare systems from being overwhelmed," Walensky tweeted.

She added that wearing a mask, in addition to screening and testing can prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Washington.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.