‘Better days lie ahead’: As local cases drop, Allegheny County residents can unmask

by PublicSource

Last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new pandemic guidelines that say the majority of Americans — including Allegheny County residents — can remove masks indoors. 

“The CDC changes reflect the current pandemic phase,” said Allegheny County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen at a Wednesday press conference. 

“We’ve seen surges, variants, public health orders, the emergence of safe, proven and effective vaccines and therapeutics, and many other developments,” Bogen said. “The current pandemic phase is different than previous ones, and as such, it requires a different approach.” 

Bogen added that the new community measures outlined by the CDC focus on minimizing the impact of severe COVID risk, minimizing the burden on the healthcare system and focusing on protecting the most vulnerable. 

The CDC defines three COVID community levels: low, medium and high

Those classifications are based on three indicators: the level of local cases, the level of hospitalizations and hospital capacity. Based on recent metrics, Allegheny County is classified as “low.”

“The COVID community levels inform recommendations for both what individuals can do to protect themselves and what community level preventive strategies can be implemented,” Bogen said. 

Under the CDC’s new guidance, around 70% of Americans can stop masking. The CDC’s guidance suggests that masks can be removed in schools, unless community spread is high. Some schools in Allegheny County are making masks optional, while others, including Pittsburgh Public Schools are continuing to require masks.

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PublicSource has been tracking COVID-19’s spread on a daily basis since March 2020. More than a year later, in an effort to direct our resources into enterprise reporting on the pandemic and other important issues, we will cover the Allegheny County Health Department’s weekly briefing on Wednesdays and update the numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We may adjust as the prevalence of the coronavirus ebbs and flows. If you have questions or comments, please email PublicSource’s managing editor halle@publicsource.org.


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