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New CDC guidelines recommend masks for most of Maine

WGME Portland logo WGME Portland 2/26/2022 WGME

PORTLAND (WGME) – The U.S. CDC has issued new guidance on mask-wearing.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky says it's time to give Americans a breather.

"We want to give people a break from things like mask wearing when our levels are low, and then have the ability to reach for them again should things get worse in the future," Walensky said.

Under its new directive, the CDC says masks should now be optional in communities and schools with low or medium transmission rates.

That includes Kennebec, Somerset and Waldo Counties.

However, COVID transmission levels remain high in every other Maine county.

"At the high level, CDC recommends that everyone wear a mask indoors, in public, including in schools," Greta Massetti of the CDC COVID-19 Emergency Response Team said.

The CDC's updated focus is on protecting people at high risk of severe illness and keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed.

"With widespread population immunity, the overall risk of severe disease is now generally lower," Walensky said.

"Things feel safer and then all of a sudden, we feel safe, we take the masks off, then the rates go up," University of Maine Professor Sarah Harlan-Haughey said.

Harlan-Haughey wants the masks to stay on.

"It doesn't feel safe yet," Harlan-Haughey said. "I'm in a small room with a lot of students, and I think it's safer, obviously, for everyone to wear masks still."

Others are ready to unmask.

"Everybody could breathe normally but keep the six feet and stuff, and we can go from there," Pittston resident Nick Hubble said.

At the Portland Transportation Center, everyone must still wear a mask.

Just last week, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said he still supports mask mandates in school.

Shah says 35,000 children have gotten COVID since the start of the school year, and he cautioned that school vacation week could lead to a spike in cases when kids return to school on Monday.

To see the CDC's Community Level data, click here.

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