Health officials say pandemic not over despite CDC’s new mask metrics

Posted at 6:55 PM, Feb 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-25 20:09:11-05

MICHIGAN — Friday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control updated their metrics that determine mask-wearing guidelines.

They held a press briefing and stated that the metrics will be based on hospitalizations, hospital capacity, and new COVID cases from the previous week. They will no longer be based on the number of COVID cases or case-positivity rates.

“The top-line message is that the metrics we’ve been using have a different meaning than they had a year ago or two years ago,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian during a Zoom interview after the briefing. “We have tools we didn’t have a year ago, we didn’t have two years ago. With the availability of vaccines, with the availability of over-the-counter testing and therapeutics — as well as masks and all the things that we know work — with all of these tools together, it’s not really about case rates and percent positivity anymore.”

The CDC said the data from the new metrics will determine if a county is low, medium or high risk. Low means no masks indoors. Medium means high-risk people should meet with their doctors about wearing a mask, and high means masking indoors is recommended.

The CDC stated that "70 percent of the population in the U.S. is in a location of low or medium." Most of FOX 17's viewing area is in medium.

“There are still health departments that are issuing guidance and their own policies around what’s happening in their jurisdiction,” said Dr. Bagdasarian, who’s also an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist. “Businesses and other facilities can issue their own policies. That’s perfectly reasonable. So, there’s a lot of decision making happening at a local level.”

Matt Johnson with the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services said that for certain public spaces they will continue to enforce masks.

“I’ll say for public spaces right now, I’d say for transportation until we hear a change for the CDC; right now that remains in place to wear masks on transportation,” he said during a Zoom interview. “And public spaces, different entities might have their own guidelines for what they’d like to see in their establishment whether it be to ask you to wear a mask or to maintain social distancing.”

One of those places and establishments is hospitals. Spectrum Health released the following statement to FOX 17:

"While the COVID-19 pandemic is improving, health care settings, including hospitals and clinics, are unique from general public locations and are still being heavily impacted by the virus. Spectrum Health will continue to assess the situation and follow the guidance of our infection prevention experts. We are continuing masking requirements for the time being." 

Johnson also recommended abiding by the businesses' and restaurants' COVID guidelines if they have them.

Both he and Dr. Bagdasarain suggest that individuals make the best decision for themselves but to remember that COVID is still here.

“It’s not that the pandemic is over. It’s not that things will move in a clear straight line until the pandemic is over. We expect to see surges. We expect to see increases in cases,” Dr. Bagdasarian said. “They might be tied to changes in the weather. So, we could see a surge next winter. They could be tied to other things that are happening around the state. So, schools reopening in the fall for example, or they could be tied to a new variant.”

Follow FOX 17: Facebook - Twitter - Instagram - YouTube