Masks are no longer recommended indoors as Denton County moves into a low transmission phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, county Public Health Director Dr. Matt Richardson said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its metrics for community transmission Feb. 25, which now has Denton County categorized as a low-transmission community, Richardson said during a March 1 Commissioners Court meeting. These metrics include new COVID-19 cases by symptom onset, new COVID-19 admissions and COVID-19-occupied staffed inpatient beds.

In the second week of January, the county reported nearly 15,000 new cases, Richardson said. During the week of Feb. 13-19, the county reported under 400 cases.

“Locally we are seeing a dramatic decline,” Richardson said.

Testing positivity rates dropped from 36% to under 5%, Richardson said.

Hospitalization rates are lagging compared to case counts, but there is still a decline in hospitalizations, Richardson said. It may take another week or two for the decline to reflect current case counts at the hospital level.

Despite lower hospitalizations, Denton County hospitals continue to report staffing shortages.

Pediatric cases also saw a decrease in cases from 4,200 new cases the second week of January to less than 200 cases Feb. 13-19, he said.

“This is happy news,” he said.