CDC removes remaining counties in Tampa Bay region from high risk for COVID-19
Hillsborough, Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties are now considered medium risk for COVID-19 transmission, along with Pinellas, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties.
The greater Tampa Bay region is now out of the high risk zone for COVID-19 transmission, according to data released Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hillsborough, Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties have joined Pinellas, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties in the medium risk category. Manatee County remains in the low risk category.
People who live in areas considered low or medium risk are free to forgo their masks indoors. Masks are still recommended indoors for people in areas rated high risk.
A 10-county region in the Big Bend area of north Florida is the only part of the state that the CDC considers high risk.
Large swaths of Florida are now considered low risk, including much of the Panhandle and counties along the coast from Lee south to Monroe on the west coast and from Miami-Dade north to St. Johns on the east coast.
According to the CDC, people don't need masks if transmission of the coronavirus is controlled and hospitals are not strained.
The move to ease masking guidance nationally, federal officials say, reflects current conditions at this phase of the pandemic, including widespread immunity through vaccination and prior infection as well as better access to testing and treatments.
Health officials emphasized that people should still wear masks if they wish or if they are personally at high risk. And regardless of local conditions, they should mask if they have COVID-19 symptoms, a positive test or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Copyright 2022 Health News Florida