CDC Unveils COVID-19 Community Levels

Today, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unveiled “COVID-19 Community Levels,” a new tool to help communities determine what COVID-19 prevention strategies to take based on the latest available data. Levels can be “low,” “medium,” or “high” based on a combination of three metrics.

The metrics utilized by the CDC include new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population in the past seven days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days. New COVID-19 admissions and the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied represent the potential for strain on the health care delivery system. Data on new cases acts as an early warning indicator of potential increases in health care delivery system strain in the event of a COVID-19 surge.

The COVID-19 community level is determined by the higher of the new admissions and inpatient beds metrics, based on the current level of new cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days. The CDC, based on the COVID-19 Community Level, details individual-, household-, and community-level prevention strategies against COVID-19. Recommendations offered by the CDC include a range of vaccines, testing, and nonpharmaceutical interventions.

In conjunction with the COVID-19 Community Levels, the CDC announced it is also relaxing its masking guidance for communities where the COVID-19 community level is low or medium. CDC is dropping its recommendation for universal school masking and will instead recommend masking in communities at a high level of COVID-19. Notably, the CDC emphasized the ability for people to choose to mask at any time. The CDC additionally indicated that people with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask regardless of community level.

Additional information from the CDC is available here