As lawmakers lift mask mandates across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new COVID-19 community-level tracker that analyzes counties based on new cases, hospital admissions, and available hospital beds. Using this data, counties are sorted as either having a low, medium, or high COVID-19 community level.
The tracker is part of the CDC’s effort to analyze daily COVID-19 numbers by individual communities. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky explained that this new system is intended to help guide research toward more efficient precautionary measures.
“This framework moves beyond looking just at cases & test positivity to evaluate factors that reflect the severity of disease, including hospitalizations & hospital capacity,” she tweeted.
Along with the county-level tracker, the CDC released guidelines for counties depending on their COVID-19 level. For communities with low and medium levels, masks are not mandatory inside, unless an individual is part of an at-risk group. For communities with high levels, masks should continue to be worn indoors in public.
Users are able to search any county in the country and, although over 70% of the U.S. population was reported as having low or medium COVID-19 community levels as of February 25, Director Walensky warned not to get too comfortable without a mask on.
“I do anticipate that this is probably going to be a seasonal virus,” Walensky said in an exclusive interview with NBC News. “I would say put your masks in a drawer, anticipate you may need them again, and hope that we don’t.”
She continued by saying that wearing masks may be necessary in order to be “vigilant” in the cold months when other respiratory illnesses like the flu are commonly spread.
Like the majority of the country, Maryland seems to be trending towards cases decreasing over time. The CDC identified Garrett County as the only county in Maryland with a high COVID-19 community level. On March 7, Governor Larry Hogan announced that Maryland has recorded under 300 COVID-19 hospitalizations, and is experiencing its lowest case rate yet.
The total number of cases in Maryland has decreased by about 98 percent since January 9, on which there were 17,872 cases – the highest number of newly reported cases in a single day in the state this year.
As of March 16, only 332 new cases were reported in Maryland with the majority of these cases coming from younger age groups. Early on in the pandemic, senior citizens accounted for the most infections, but over time this has shifted.
Everyone who gets vaccinated and boosted in Maryland has the chance to win money from a $2 million pot with the lottery initiative, “VaxCash 2.0.” One fully vaccinated Maryland resident will be awarded a cash prize through a lottery drawing every Tuesday until May 3.
As of March 15, there were about 4.5 million fully vaccinated individuals in Maryland. An estimated 4.7 million people have received at least their first vaccination of two.
Governor Hogan has used the initiative as a way to motivate state residents into staying up to date with all COVID-19 safety measures.
“We continue to urge Marylanders to get boosted for maximum protection against the virus and to be eligible for tomorrow’s $50,000 drawing of our Vax Cash 2.0 Promotion,” he tweeted.
For more information about all state COVID-19 protocols visit: https://covidlink.maryland.gov/content/faqs/#faqVP.
This article was originally published on CNS Maryland.