Instead of relying solely on COVID-19 cases, the agency's mask guidance now places greater emphasis on the number of hospitalizations and the capacity of local hospitals.
As a result of the new guidelines, masks are no longer required in almost 70% of the United States.
Previous guidance suggested masks in counties with substantial or high transmission, which represented the vast majority of the country. This new recommendation is a drastic shift.
According to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, this shift is due to improved diagnostic and treatment options for the virus, as well as widespread protection provided by immunizations or earlier infection.
"As a nation, we're in a stronger place today with greater tools to protect ourselves," Walensky stated.
Persons who are at higher risk for the COVID-19 — or who live with people who are — should take extra precautions, such as masking, regardless of their own community status, according to the CDC.
Those who prefer to wear a mask can continue to do so.