The CDC COVID-19 Community Level is a measure that takes into consideration COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and hospital capacity 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 requirements and issue mask recommendations. As respiratory illnesses are spiking in many parts of the country, and based on CDC’s COVID-19 Community Level framework, some state and local officials are revisiting their indoor mask guidance. While the COVID-19 Community Level doesn’t currently take into account flu or RSV levels, data show that masks can also be effective in reducing the transmission of flu and RSV. 

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)?
  • Are other respiratory illnesses circulating at high levels in your community?

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.

Updated December 14, 2022