After CDC revises COVID-19 recommendations, Dallas County narrows its mask mandate

ONLY FOR THIS STORY The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say most healthy Americans do not need to wear a mask indoors in counties that are not at a high COVID-19 risk level ( Kaylee Greenlee for The Texas Tribune, Kaylee Greenlee for The Texas Tribune)

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As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mark a new stage of the pandemic by loosening masking guidelines, Dallas County has quickly scaled back its mask mandate.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins revised guidelines Friday, no longer requiring masks in public settings, except in jails, homeless shelters, long-term care facilities and health care settings. Immunocompromised residents are still strongly encouraged to continue to wear masks in all indoor settings.

The CDC announced earlier on Friday a new system for monitoring the virus, which designates individual counties as being at low, medium or high risk of residents contracting COVID-19. Counties in Texas collectively represent all three categories. But statewide, COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are plummeting.

For residents of low-risk counties, there is no recommendation for masking. And in medium-risk counties, people who are immunocompromised should talk to their doctor about continuing to wear a mask. The CDC is revising its universal mask mandates for schools and recommending districts require masks only in high-risk settings.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the new system reflects a belief that the country has entered a different phase of the pandemic. Communities now have more tools to protect themselves from the virus, including an increased access to vaccines, testing and high-quality masks.

A federal mandate still requires Texans to wear face coverings on buses, trains and planes, though the order is set to expire on March 18. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Irving, have sued the CDC over that mandate.

Throughout the pandemic, political battles have raged over mask mandates in the state. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has waged legal fights with the Biden administration and with cities, counties and school districts over bids to require masks.

Earlier this week, Travis County returned to Stage 4, a less restrictive tier of COVID-19 guidelines. Waco Independent School District also lifted its mask mandate Thursday.