Frequently Asked Questions about Mask mandates

COVID-19 Community Level is a CDC framework to monitor COVID-19, a measure that takes into consideration hospitalizations, hospital capacity, and cases within a community. This approach is designed to help keep people safer from severe COVID-19 and help maintain local healthcare systems. The CDC makes recommendations based on COVID-19 Community Level, and encourages local decision-makers to use it to inform policies and encourages community members to use it to assess their own risk. 

Regardless of COVID-19 Community Levels, the CDC recommends that people get vaccinated and boosted when eligible, and take precautions like getting tested when sick. When the level is higher, more prevention measures, like masking or enhanced screening protocols, are recommended to keep people healthy and limit strain on the local healthcare system. And at any Level, individuals may decide to take additional precautions based on their risk level, risk tolerance, and personal preference.

CDC recommendations at each COVID-19 Community Level include:

  • Low: Get vaccinated and boosted, and tested if you have symptoms.
  • Medium: Consider wearing a mask if you are or a member of your household is at high risk for severe COVID-19. (In addition to vaccination, boosting, and testing).
  • High: Everyone age 2 and up should wear a mask in public, indoor settings, including schools and workplaces. (In addition to vaccination, boosting, and testing).

Added February 25, 2022

On April 18, a court ruling voided the federal requirement that people wear masks on public transportation. This has led some airlines, airports, and transit systems to lift their requirement that passengers or employees wear masks, while other airlines and systems are keeping those requirements in place. Check with your airline or local carrier for their current mask policy.

The CDC is still recommending that everyone age 2 and older wear a well-fitting mask or a high filtration mask such as an N95, KN95, and KF94 when indoors on public transportation and transportation hubs.

Whether or not a carrier is requiring mask wearing, individual passengers are recommended to wear a mask—especially when in crowds or poorly ventilated areas, during international travel or long-distance domestic travel, when the COVID-19 Community Level is high, or if you or a family member is at high risk for getting severely ill if infected with  COVID-19. For example, older adults and anyone with an underlying health condition that would make COVID-19 infection more serious, (e.g., diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer) or anyone who has older family members or family members with underlying health issues, should continue to wear a mask as a precaution against becoming infected and spreading the virus.

CDC recommendations on mask-wearing on public transportation are based on the latest scientific data on COVID-19 and current and projected trends in the CDC’s COVID-19 Community Level Framework. For more information about safer travel during the pandemic, including mask-wearing tips and recommendations for post-travel, visit the CDC Domestic and International Travel pages.

Updated May 4, 2022

The CDC recommends masking based on the new COVID-19 Community Level framework, which is a measure that takes into consideration COVID-19 hospitalizations, hospital capacity, and cases within a community. When the level is higher, more prevention measures, like masking, are recommended to keep people healthy and limit strain on the local healthcare system.

CDC’s masking recommendations based on COVID-19 community level are:

  • Low: Mask use is based on personal preference and risk assessment.
  • Medium: People who are at high risk for severe health impacts if infected with COVID-19, or who regularly interact with someone at high risk, should strongly consider wearing a mask in indoor public settings for additional protection from COVID-19.
  • High: People should wear masks in indoor public settings, including in schools and workplaces.

There are also some situations where people should wear a mask, regardless of Community Level—such as if they have symptoms, have tested positive for COVID-19, or have been exposed to COVID-19. (See Quarantine and Isolation.)

Depending on where you live, state or local elected officials typically have the authority to create or lift mask mandates. As the number of COVID-19 cases decreases in many areas, and based on CDC’s new Community Level framework, some state and local officials are deciding to end mask mandates. Other jurisdictions are keeping them in place for now. Regardless of Community Level or whether your state, county, or city requires masks, you may decide that wearing a mask is the right decision for you.

Questions that may help you make a decision about whether to wear a mask include:

  • What is your COVID-19 Community Level?
  • What health risks do you and your family members have? For example, are you or anyone in your family an older adult or have an underlying health condition, such as diabetes or heart disease?
  • Do you have young children in your household who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated?
  • Are you up to date on your vaccinations (fully vaccinated and boosted if eligible)?

Updated February 25, 2022

In many cases, yes. Regardless of state or local policies, private businesses have the authority to require masks (both for employees and customers) if they choose to. Some school systems may also continue to require students and school personnel to wear masks, and those policies vary by jurisdiction. Regardless of state, local, or school policy, teachers, students, and other individuals can choose to wear masks to safeguard their health.

Added February 11, 2022

The authority for making mask requirements most often resides at the state and local level. The CDC issues recommendations and guidance to help inform policy decisions made at the local levels. Mask requirements often take into account local transmission levels of COVID-19, and may differ across businesses, employers, and schools.

Updated October 12, 2021

Misinformation Alerts about Mask mandates

False rumor claims CDC changed child development guidelines due to masks

Posts are circulating online falsely claiming that the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics are changing child development milestones to account for developmental delays that resulted from young children and adult educators and caretakers wearing masks. The developmental milestones are routinely reviewed and updated when necessary. The latest update was based on data gathered through

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