A measure of the impact of COVID-19 illness on health and healthcare systems.
High vaccination rates and population immunity from both vaccination and infection have meant the risk of disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 has been greatly reduced for our community. Still, we know that the elderly, immunocompromised, and disabled are more at risk for serious illness and must face challenging decisions as we continue to live with COVID-19.
Vaccines have been shown to be extremely protective against severe disease and death, and continuing to expand vaccine coverage and ensuring people are up-to-date with vaccinations and boosters will greatly reduce the strain on our hospital systems and protect individuals against hospitalization and death.
Local health departments, communities, and individuals should take into account current information about COVID-19 and assess the risk for severe disease, inequities in access to prevention strategies, and the potential for strain on the local healthcare system when making decisions about community prevention strategies and individual behaviors. COVID-19 Community vaccination coverage and other local information, like early alerts from surveillance, such as through wastewater or the number of emergency department visits for COVID-19, when available, can also inform decision making for health officials and individuals.
New COVID-19 admissions and the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied represent the current potential for strain on the health system. Data on new cases acts as an early warning indicator of potential increases in health system strain in the event of a COVID-19 surge.
Using these data, the COVID-19 community level is classified as low, medium, or high.
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.
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.
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.
BA.2, sometimes called "stealth Omicron," is a more transmissible version of the original Omicron (BA.1). From what we know, BA.2 does not cause more severe illness than the original Omicron variant. However, it is causing an increase in cases across Europe and other countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the BA.2 subvariant, which is up to 60% more transmissible than the original Omicron, is now the most dominant form of COVID-19 in the United States. Much is still unknown about BA.2, but experts are monitoring its progression domestically and abroad.
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is a safer way to build immunity than getting sick with COVID-19. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as a booster when eligible, is the most effective way to protect yourself from severe illness or death caused by Omicron (both BA.1 and BA.2). By getting the vaccine, you are protecting yourself and your community. As the community develops immunity to SARS-CoV-2, the risk of severe illness decreases, and future outbreaks of infection become less disruptive.
Monitor your daily health. If you develop COVID-like symptoms, get tested with a home test or clinical test as soon as possible. If you are an older adult or at high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, contact a healthcare provider right away after testing positive, even if your symptoms are mild, to determine if you are eligible for treatment. Several antiviral drugs have shown to effectively treat both Omicron strains when taken soon after symptom onset.
Monitor your community's level of transmission. This information is available on CUPHD's website and the CDC's website. When transmission in your community is “high,” practice social distancing and wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth while in public. If you are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, talk to a healthcare provider about appropriate precautions to take at other levels of transmission.
People who are up to date on vaccines have much lower risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 compared with unvaccinated people.
Up to date means a person has received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including any booster dose(s) when eligible.
Fully vaccinated means a person has received their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines.