CDC removes remaining counties in Tampa Bay region from high risk for COVID-19
A 10-county region in the Big Bend remains the only part of the state at high risk in the CDC's community levels. However, Hillsborough, Polk, Hardee and Highlands dropped from high to medium risk.
A 10-county region in the Big Bend remains the only part of the state at high risk in the CDC's weekly community level check.
Meantime, large swaths of Florida are now listed as low risk for transmitting the virus and all counties in the Tampa Bay region are no longer at high risk.
In Central Florida, Hillsborough, Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties have joined Pinellas, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties in the medium risk category, according to data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Manatee County remains in the low risk category.
People who live in areas considered low or medium risk are free to forgo their masks indoors. Masks are still recommended indoors for people in areas rated high risk.
Much of the state is considered low risk, including much of the Panhandle and counties along the coasts from Lee south to Monroe in the southwest and Miami-Dade north to St. Johns along the Atlantic.
The trouble spot remains a cluster of counties in North Central Florida: Alachua, Levy, Gilchrest, Dixie, Lafayette, Hamilton, Suwanee, Union, Bradford and Colombia remain high-risk areas.
According to the CDC, people don't need masks if transmission of the coronavirus is controlled and hospitals are not strained.
The move to ease masking guidance nationally, federal officials say, reflects current conditions at this phase of the pandemic, including widespread immunity through vaccination and prior infection as well as better access to testing and treatments.
Health officials emphasized that people should still wear masks if they wish or if they are personally at high risk. And regardless of local conditions, they should mask if they have COVID-19 symptoms, a positive test or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.