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Key Words: ‘I won’t take off my mask indoors’: Some physicians worry that CDC’s new mask guidelines will leave ‘most vulnerable’ to fend for themselves


“‘Very concerned that this new guidance will essentially recommend “one-way masking” w/ the burden to protect themselves falling on the most vulnerable – ppl who are immunocompromised, w/ underlying conditions, children ”

That’s a tweet

from Dr. Oni Blackstock, a primary-care and HIV physician in New York City, on reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to loosen COVID-19 guidelines for wearing masks.

“We need equity-centered, data-driven guidance,” Blackstock wrote.

The CDC on Friday is expected to announce a change in the metrics it uses to decide whether people should wear masks, adopting a more holistic approach to COVID-19 risk, the Associated Press reported, citing two sources familiar with the shift.

Instead of recommending that people mask up if they live in communities with substantial or high transmission — criteria that covers about 95% of U.S. counties — the agency will reportedly factor in hospitalization rates and local hospital capacity, which have improved since the omicron surge, along with case counts.

The CDC didn’t immediately respond to a MarketWatch request for comment.

Blackstock was not the only person to raise the alarm on social media about what loosening mask guidance might mean for vulnerable individuals, including people with compromised immune systems, who may not receive strong protection from COVID-19 vaccines, and children younger than 5, who still aren’t eligible for vaccination.

Millions of people in the U.S. have diseases that affect the immune system, and still more take drugs that suppress their immune system.

“I won’t take off my mask indoors no matter what the CDC says today,” Dr. Kim Sue, an addiction physician and anthropologist and the medical director of the National Harm Reduction Coalition, tweeted Friday morning. “This is not about me, it’s about all my neighbors, immunocompromised friends, children

“Tomorrow, @CDCDirector will announce @CDCgov is largely abandoning the most effective non-pharmaceutical intervention we have against #COVID19. Just as severely immuncompromised [sic] Americans are told there’s not nearly enough #EvuSheld to protect them,” tweeted Matthew Cortland, a lawyer and senior resident fellow at the left-wing think tank Data for Progress, on Thursday.

Cortland was referring to the Food and Drug Administration’s recent move to double the recommended dosage for Evusheld, an antibody cocktail authorized for use in people who are immunocompromised or can’t be vaccinated against COVID-19 due to a history of severe allergic reaction. Journalists have reported that this essentially halves the already scarce supply of doses.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky tweeted Thursday that the agency had been analyzing its COVID-19 data and is “shifting our focus to preventing the most severe outcomes and minimizing healthcare strain.”

“Overall risk of severe disease due to #COVID19 is generally lower with widespread population immunity through vaccination, boosters & prior infection,” she wrote, adding that the country now has tools like testing, high-quality masks, more treatments and improved ventilation in its arsenal.

“Still, #COVID19 continues to circulate in communities,” Walensky wrote. “Moving forward, our approach will advise enhanced prevention efforts in communities with a high volume of severe illness and will also focus on protecting our healthcare systems from being overwhelmed.”

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