SAN DIEGO — The Centers for Disease Control bumped San Diego down a notch in a key COVID-19 metric this week, moving the county out of a tier where masks are universally recommended indoors.

Health officials have emphasized throughout the pandemic that people at higher risk for severe coronavirus cases — and those who simply prefer to wear a face covering — can mask up at any time to reduce their risk. But the CDC’s “high” COVID-19 community level carries a blanket recommendation for the region that is no longer in place.

The agency evaluates community levels every seven days, and San Diego County entered the high category back in July. With a new batch of data Thursday, it moved out of that category.

Health experts base the metric on three different factors: New hospital admissions per 100,000 people, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and total new cases per 100,000 people.

Los Angeles County was also recently in the agency’s highest tier for COVID risk, along with a majority of the state. In L.A., officials warned that could trigger a local indoor masking mandate. That never came to bear, though, and the region has also returned to the medium level.

The difference in CDC COVID-19 community levels between mid-July (left) and mid-August. (Photos: CDC)

A sea of red one month prior, the CDC’s map of California community ratings showed more yellow (representing the medium level) as of Thursday’s update, though plenty of counties remain in the high tier.

The CDC continues to urge Californians to get vaccinated and boosted, and to get a coronavirus test if they have symptoms. The CDC adds that anyone “with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask,” regardless of community level.

You can view complete state- and county-level data on the CDC’s website.