CDC mulling changing mask guidelines; how local policies might be impacted



U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on when to wear a mask for protection against COVID-19 could change soon, agency officials say, possibly impacting mask policies locally.

The vast majority of area governments have no mask mandates, though some local businesses do. Many area schools are ending mask requirements for students as COVID-19 case numbers decline, though they are still required on buses.

Yellow Springs has one of the few remaining municipal mask mandates locally, an ordinance adopted in July 2020 requiring facial coverings in most public places indoors, or outdoors if social distancing isn’t possible, with exceptions.

Village Manager Josue Salmeron said they will likely review the ordinance if the CDC changes its recommendations.

“Our ordinance was based on the science that was available at the time,” he said.

Current CDC guidelines recommend wearing a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, if you are in an area of substantial or high COVID-19 transmission. All of southwest Ohio is an area of high transmission, according to the CDC.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a White House press conference this week said the agency is looking at basing recommendations more on factors such as hospitalizations. Local hospitalizations have declined recently after hitting a record last month.

“We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing, when these metrics are better, and then have the ability to reach for them again should things worsen,” Walensky said.

She reiterated that masks are still needed when someone feels sick, is within 10 days of a COVID diagnosis, or was exposed to someone and is quarantining.

Students are still required to wear masks on school buses, as are riders on Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority buses and other mass transit. Those are required under federal rules through March 18. It’s unclear what impact revised CDC guidelines would have.

RTA spokeswoman Jessica Olson said they will follow whatever the federal rules are.

“At this point we will continue enforcing the mask policy on the bus,” Olson said.

Private businesses likewise may revisit their mask policies for employees and customers.

Kroger, for example, cites CDC guidance for requiring all employees to wear masks in its policy, last updated in September. That policy also says: “Customers continue being strongly encouraged to wear masks to protect themselves and others, and to curb the spread of COVID-19.”

At the store on Dorothy Lane in Kettering on Friday, a sign on the door says Kroger “requires all associates and customers who have not been vaccinated to wear a mask while in our stores.”

The vast majority of employees and about half of the customers were wearing masks on Friday morning.

“I work in health care and I don’t feel comfortable not wearing it,” said Pat Marshall as she loaded groceries into her car wearing a mask. “When there aren’t these constant upticks or whatever, then I’ll think about it.”

Several other customers echoed that sentiment. They will continue wearing a mask in stores until they feel confident that the COVID threat has decreased.

Unmasked shoppers said they had no problem wearing them on occasion or when asked, but they believed it should largely be a personal choice.

“I don’t think we should have to wear them,” said Brandon Bohache, adding that it makes it hard to understand people and scares his young children.

Joanne and Brian Jelley had just come from the library, where they were required to wear masks.

“I understand (because) all the little kids,” said Joanne Jelley, who continued wearing a mask into Kroger.

Brian Jelley had taken his off after the library, though he said he wore it into Kroger the day before.

“Sometimes we wear them, and sometimes we don’t. We’ve all been vaccinated,” he said. “Like everybody else, we’re getting burned out with this stupid thing.”

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