CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Centers for Disease Control announced new guidelines for mask recommendations on Friday. The agency is shifting the metrics they’ll use to determine community risk, looking at new COVID-19 hospitalizations, the number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and new COVID-19 cases to determine if a county is in the low, medium, or high category.
More than half of the counties in the country are in the low or medium-level right now. No Charlotte-area counties are at the low level. Mecklenburg County is in the medium level, falling in line with the county-wide indoor mask mandate being dropped on Saturday.
For the first time, people are getting some consistent messaging across the board. COVID-19 has changed a lot over the past two years and so have the guidelines in place to protect people. But, there have been so many changes, some have been left confused about what to do.
“I hope that’s what people would want in their science agencies that they can evolve with new evidence," Dr. Tom Inglesby, the White House Senior Advisor to the COVID-19 Response Team told WCNC Charlotte. "I think the new guidance will reflect the best evidence and reflect where we are in the pandemic."
Masks have already come on and off on different timelines depending on where someone lives or goes to school. So can flip-flopping guidelines cause confusion and mistrust?
“As an audience, you’re sort of left with, at this point we call it COVID fatigue, you throw your shoulders up and you say I don’t know what to believe anymore and you say maybe I should just ignore what’s happening,” Andrew Binder, an associate professor of communication at NC State University said.
Binder said clear and direct communication is crucial in a public health crisis like this one.
“I think the difficulties come in when you have many people giving different kinds of guidance, people having different reactions to the guidance, and sort of updates to the situation,” he said.
Binder added at this point, clearing up any confusion is difficult. But the fault doesn’t just lie with the CDC, the communication environment has become very crowded.
“People have a tremendous amount of ability to control who and what they see in terms of their media consumption and that just puts public health measure at a disadvantage,” Binder said.
While Mecklenburg County’s mandate will drop, businesses still have the right to require people to wear masks. Being in the medium level means someone may want to consider a mask in certain situations and people who are high risk should talk to their doctors about it.