How new CDC mask guidelines affect Arizona restaurants, concerts, movie theaters, museums

By Priscilla Totiyapungprasert | Arizona Republic

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed how it categorizes areas with high COVID-19 transmission, easing mask guidelines for several Arizona counties.

Prior to the change on Friday, Feb. 25, roughly 95% of U.S. counties — including every county in Arizona — had a high level of COVID-19 community transmission. Under the CDC’s new measurement, more than half of the counties in the U.S. — including Maricopa County — are now considered to have a medium or low level of spread.

COVID-19 hospitalizations now factor more heavily into the categorization than the rate of new infections. The CDC advises people in areas of high transmission to continue to wear a mask indoors. People in low or medium areas like Phoenix can go mask-free.

Arizona has never had a statewide mask mandate, and many businesses have already relaxed their mask requirements.

Nearly 70% of all Arizonans are vaccinated as of Feb. 25, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Unvaccinated people have a higher risk of severe illness and death from a COVID-19 infection than vaccinated people, and they make up almost all COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Here’s what to know about the CDC’s latest guidance for wearing masks indoors.

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