CDC’s new COVID-19 approach: Measuring local levels

As COVID-19 immunity, whether from past infection or vaccines, reaches record levels in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is shifting its guidance on pandemic protection, recommending that the level of precautions should match the level of risk in each particular community.

To assist people in knowing the risks, the CDC last week launched a new tool called COVID-19 Community Levels, which helps individuals and communities to assess fully the situation in their county, so they can base their decisions regarding COVID-19 prevention on this assessment.

Depending on whether the local risk is “Low,” “Medium” or “High,” the tool recommends appropriate behaviors—for all individuals, for high-risk individuals and for local authorities—such as when to wear masks, when to recommend testing, and local health care measures.

Focus on high-risk people and healthcare systems

“This updated approach focuses on directing our prevention efforts towards protecting people at high risk for severe illness and preventing hospitals and healthcare systems from being overwhelmed,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

In order to determine the COVID-19 community level measured by the tool, the CDC came up with a formula that combines three particular metrics: new hospital admissions per 100,000 people in the past seven days, the percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and the number of newly registered cases per 100,000 in the past seven days.

According to the CDC, the first two metrics show the current strain on healthcare, while the third metric represents a potential future increase if a COVID-19 surge occurs.

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