The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance for masks on Friday as COVID-19 cases begin to decline. 

The new measures are focused more on the activity in local hospitals instead of positive test results, according to the CDC. 

Over 70 percent of the U.S population can take a break from masks, but not in San Diego County, which remains at “high COVID-19 community level” risk. San Diego County residents are recommended to wear a mask at indoor public settings and stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines

According to the guidelines, cities, and institutions even in areas of low risk may set their own rules. However, people with COVID-19 symptoms or who test positive shouldn’t stop wearing masks.

“Anybody is certainly welcome to wear a mask at any time if they feel safer wearing a mask,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a news briefing. “We want to make sure our hospitals are OK and people are not coming in with severe disease. … Anyone can go to the CDC website, find out the volume of disease in their community and make that decision.

A color-coded map is offered on the CDC webpage which designates counties as orange, yellow, or green. In green counties, local officials can drop any indoor masking rules. Yellow means people at high risk for severe disease should be cautious. Orange shows places where the CDC suggests masking should be used

Despite the easing of mask requirements, federal mandates still require everyone to wear a mask inside public transportation including airports, planes, trains, and buses.  

On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted all but 5 percent of the remaining COVID-19 provisions, though California’s state of emergency remains.

 Nineteen of the newly lifted orders were effective immediately and an additional 33 were left to expire in the next few months. Eighteen of those will be lifted on March 31 and 15 will expire on June 30, the officials said. 

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