The new metrics, by contrast, will place more weight on whether a Covid-19 outbreak risks overwhelming local hospitals — and less on the number of individual infections. That shift will mean roughly 20 percent of the country can now pull back on mask mandates and social-distancing limits, one senior administration official said.
“It’s going to be much more on what the responsibility of the people at the local level is,” the official said, characterizing the approach as “less mandating and more leave it up to the local authorities. We’re just going to give you the data.”
The shift comes weeks after state and local officials began forging ahead with their own plans to drop mask measures and vaccination requirements, and amid pressure from Democrats for the administration to provide a clearer guide for how states should return to normalcy.
While the U.S. is still averaging almost 2,000 Covid-19 deaths per day, cases and hospitalizations have plummeted from the height of the Omicron surge. That decline — combined with widespread vaccination and the growing availability of post-infection treatments — fueled a push within the administration over the last several weeks to reevaluate its recommendations on masking and other restrictions.