Is it too good to be true? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday announced a change to the metrics it will use to determine whether to recommend face coverings. The new guide would be shifting away from looking at COVID-19 case counts “to a more holistic view of risk from the coronavirus to a community” reports the Associated Press. Currently, masks are recommended for 95 percent of U.S. counties.
The guidance has been based on caseloads, which were designated as areas of “substantial or high transmission” by the CDC. “Most Americans live in places where healthy people, including students in schools, can safely take a break from wearing masks under new U.S. guidelines released Friday” reports the AP.
The new set of measures focus less on positive test results and more on what’s happening at hospitals. “The new system greatly changes the look of the CDC’s risk map and puts more than 70% of the U.S. population in counties where the coronavirus is posing a low or medium threat to hospitals. Those are the people who can stop wearing masks,” the agency said.
The CDC still advises people and schoolchildren to wear masks “where the risk of COVID-19 is high” which is about 37% of U.S. counties, where about 28% of Americans live.
CDC is updating #COVID19 community recommendations.
CDC’s new COVID-19 Community Level tool classifies every county in the US into low, medium, or high, with recommended prevention measures for each level.
Check your area’s level and learn more here: https://t.co/UZxX67a6M3.
— CDC (@CDCgov) February 25, 2022
What is not included in the change are requirements to wear masks on public transportation and indoors in airports, train stations and bus stations. Additionally, “the CDC guidelines for other indoor spaces aren’t binding, meaning cities and institutions even in areas of low risk may set their own rules.”
The agency also says that anyone experiencing symptoms and/or who test positive should not stop wearing masks. “Anybody is certainly welcome to wear a mask at any time if they feel safer wearing a mask,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a news briefing. “We want to make sure our hospitals are OK and people are not coming in with severe disease. … Anyone can go to the CDC website, find out the volume of disease in their community and make that decision.”
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Watchdog: Pentagon likely rushed denials of COVID-19 vaccine Religious Exemption requests
The Army only approved just 24 religious COVID-19 vaccine exemption requests out of a total 8,514 requests submitted by active duty soldiers, and 1,602 requests have been rejected while the rest remain pending.
Military.com obtained information showing the Pentagon rushed vaccine exemption denials:
Sean O’Donnell, the Pentagon’s inspector general, wrote in a June 2 memo to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin obtained by Military.com calling attention to a “concerning” trend in which military brass rushed to reject vaccine-exemption petitions rather than giving each request due consideration.
“We found a trend of generalized assessments rather than the individualized assessment that is required by Federal law and DoD and Military Service policies,” he said. “Some of the appellate decisions included documentation that demonstrated a greater consideration of facts and circumstances involved in a request.”
In March, a Texas judge blocked the Navy from dismissing sailors with pending exemption requests and in August, a Florida federal judge ordered class action relief and granted an injunction barring the federal government from enforcing the vaccine mandate for the Marine Corps.
National Review writes, “For the last year, military has been struggling with a recruitment problem. As of July, with only three months left in the fiscal year, the Army had met only 40 percent of its recruitment goal and reduced its active-duty force by 12,000 troops.”
O’Donnell calculated that officials likely gave each appeal a cursory glance rather than a thorough examination, possibly opening the door to litigation from service members who had to resign after they failed to obtain exemptions. Across all the branches, there were about 50 denials per day in a 90-day period, he determined. Over a thousand Coast Guardsmen have already tried to launch a class-action lawsuit in response to their being refused religious exemptions, the publication noted.
“The volume and rate at which decisions were made to deny requests is concerning,” the memo read. “Assuming a 10-hour work day with no breaks or attention to other matters, the average review period was about 12 minutes for each package. Such a review period seems insufficient to process each request in an individualized manner and still perform the duties required of their position.”
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