US CDC reviewing mask guidance

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Washington– The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reviewing its mask guidance, shifting its focus to Covid-19 hospitalizations as a key measure of the severity of the outbreak and a future guide for determining whether health safety protocols need to be tightened, according to Director Rochelle Walensky.

“We must consider hospital capacity as an additional important barometer,” Walensky told the public on Wednesday during a White House COVID-19 update.

“We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing when these metrics are better, and then have the ability to reach for them again should things worsen,” Xinhua news agency quoted the CDC chief as further saying.

The CDC currently recommends that people wear masks in indoor public places regardless of their vaccination status, if they live in an area with high viral transmission.

People are required by federal law to wear masks on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation.

As new infections from the Omicron variant rapidly decline from their peak levels in January, the authorities in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Oregon have announced that they were loosening indoor mask requirements, while some cities and school districts are keeping their mandates in place.

Meanwhile, Walt Disney Co. is ditching its mask requirement for fully vaccinated visitors at its Florida and California theme parks, starting Thursday.

The shift comes as Covid-19 cases decline in many parts of the country and as major employers including Amazon, Tyson Foods and Walmart drop face-covering mandates for vaccinated workers.

Disney cited “recent trends and regulatory guidance” in easing its pandemic-related rules. It does not require proof of vaccination to get into its parks.

People will still need to wear masks on shuttles, buses and other forms of “enclosed” transportation at the parks, it added.

After weeks of back-and-forth, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, signed into law on Wednesday a bill that will effectively bar mask mandates in schools, by giving parents the right to exempt their children from mask-wearing without stating a reason.

Also on Wednesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and House Representative Beth Van Duyne, both Republicans, filed a lawsuit against the Joe Biden administration to end mask mandates on planes, arguing that the mandate imposes a “restriction on travellers’ liberty interests” and that the CDC does not have the authority to introduce such a blanket preventive measure.

The suit is the latest in a slew of state efforts to challenge Covid-19 safety measures in court.

The state is locked in several legal battles with cities, counties and school districts over masks in public schools.

Texas has also sued the Biden administration over federal vaccine mandates for health care workers, federal contractors and large businesses. (IANS)

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