The CDC’s February 25 announcement is directed at the general public, leaving existing masking requirements in place for healthcare settings like orthodontic offices. 

The CDC’s announcement on February 25 that it was relaxing its masking guidance is creating some confusion in orthodontic practices. The fact is orthodontic practices, as healthcare facilities, still need to maintain the same masking requirements for staff and patients and guests entering the facility. 

“Changing CDC and OSHA guidance can be confusing for the orthodontic team. Orthodontic team members must remember that they are included in the healthcare safety guidance; not the general public or nonpatient care workplace guidance. We provide care to patients who are unmasked and who might be immune compromised or have a family member who is immune compromised. More protective measures are required for both patients and employees safety than in public areas such as stores, gyms, and hair salons. We will get to a new normal, but we are not there yet,” said Jackie Dorst, RDH, safe practices consultant and speaker

The new CDC guidance applies to the general public and relaxes masking requirements in communities where hospitals aren’t under high strain. 

As part of the update, the CDC announced that it will use different metrics going forward to determine whether face coverings are recommended. Previous guidelines recommended masks for those living in communities with substantial or high transmission rates. Now, in addition to caseloads, the guidance will also consider hospitalizations, current beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and hospital capacity. 

Using the older risk metrics, 95% of counties would fall under “substantial” or “high” levels of spread. Under the new “COVID-19 Community Levels” metrics, however, about 38% of U.S. counties are in the high-risk category. 

The CDC will release updated county-by-county risk levels weekly on its website. 

The CDC continues to recommend that people who are personally at high risk and those who wish to continue to wear face coverings should do so. Those who have COVID-19 symptoms, a positive test, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, should mask, regardless of local conditions. OP