TAMPA, Fla. — The CDC's new mask guidelines come as two new studies out of the UK and Denmark show stealth omicron, also know as BA.2, is now causing about one in five COVID cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
“So the CDC has come up with a list county by county that is assessing risk factors,” said Dr. David Berger, Board Certified Pediatrician at Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care.
Those are used on how many cases there are per 100,000 people in that county as well as looking into hospitalizations and hospital capacity.
“They’ve ranked it on a low, medium, and high and that’s what dictates what level of mask protection that an individual community should be following,” said Berger.
So if you live in a low transmission area, there are no recommendations for mask-wearing.
If you live in a medium transmission community, the CDC advises you to talk to your doctor if you have an increased risk for COVID.
If you have a high transmission area the CDC says you should wear a mask in public indoor settings, including schools.
Counties in Tampa Bay are still considered to be high transmission areas.
“So, if one is following the CDC guidelines then the community would still be keeping the masks on,” said Berger.
Experts say this change by the CDC is a sign of a step forward.
“It indicates that we are on a definite downslope on this thing now. So you know communities are clearly seeing much less cases, much fewer hospitalizations. We’re still seeing the death number high but that’s always a lagging factor so we do anticipate that to come down,” said Berger.
“The severity of the disease relative to original omicron is the same,” Berger added.
The subvariant is about 30% more transmissible than the original omicron, or BA.1.
As COVID-19 cases are dropping, the relative proportion of BA.2 cases has been increasing.
Researchers believe BA.2 will likely become the dominant cause of COVID-19 soon.
While new reports show vaccines should still provide decent protection, especially for people who’ve been boosted, it is possible to get re-infected with BA.2 if you had BA.1 or delta.
“It’s very rare but there have been cases of people who’ve gotten the BA2 omicron subvariant who had the omicron BA1. So it’s not a completely sterilizing immunity,” said Berger.
Health officials said they're not sounding the alarm, just keeping a close eye on new developments.