Here’s how to find CDC’s new COVID guidelines for your area in Georgia

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a new tool that helps people determine whether their area is at high, medium or low risk for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and whether masks are needed in most public indoor places, including schools.

Go here to find the pandemic guidelines for your area.

The new tool allows people to select their state and county and three colors, displaying the outbreak level as one of three colors, green for low, yellow for medium and orange for high. Recommended mask guidelines are given for each. The agency is only recommending everyone wear masks in areas of high risk. Currently, no counties in metro Atlanta are in the high-risk category. Much of the state is also in either low or medium risk categories.

All three levels emphasize the importance of vaccinations and boosters.

The transmission is calculated using three metrics: new COVID hospitalizations, current hospitalizations and new COVID infections. Guidelines will hinge less heavily on new infections, which had rocketed to new highs during the recent outbreak of the omicron variant.

Credit: CDC

Credit: CDC

“We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing when our levels are low,” said CDC director Rochelle Walensky at a press briefing Friday, ”and then have the ability to reach for them again should things get worse in the future.”

As part of the change, the CDC is dropping its recommendation for universal school masking and instead recommends masking only in communities at a high level of risk. Most school districts made masks optional long ago. After the CDC announcement Friday, Gwinnett County Public Schools and Atlanta Public Schools said they were pivoting to mask optional policies. Other districts, including DeKalb County, had said they would soon make a decision about whether to continue requiring masks.

The CDC emphasized that people should still wear masks if they wish. And regardless of community conditions, they should mask when experiencing COVID symptoms, during the 10 days following a diagnosis or following exposure to someone with COVID.

ExploreMORE: CDC eases guidelines for schools and other indoor settings

The new guidance comes as a growing number of states have already started to loosen mask requirements. Coronavirus cases have been rapidly declining across the country, and vaccines and new antiviral treatments have helped doctors better manage the case surges. While many doctors and public health experts are still concerned about waning vaccine efficacy and new variants, they also acknowledge the time has come when more people in more places can start ditching the masks.

Credit: CCD

Credit: CCD

Doctors say people who are immunocompromised, or people who live with someone who is, should still continue to mask in public places. Masks are also important for those who are unvaccinated. They still represent the vast majority of people who are hospitalized and die of COVID. But for those who are healthy and fully vaccinated and boosted, the risk of getting severely sick with COVID is small.