CDC recommends that you wear better masks if Omicron spreads

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WebMD Health

Jan. 12, 2022 – The CDC is preparing to update its COVID-19 mask recommendations to highlight the use of N95 and KN95 masks, which are better at filtering the virus, director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said Wednesday.

“We are preparing to update the information on our masks website to best reflect the options available to people and the different levels of protection offered by different masks, and we want Americans to have the best, most up-to-date information on Provide selection of a mask. “Will be right for you,” she said at a press conference at the White House.

While the higher quality masks offer better protection, they can be uncomfortable to wear, expensive, and harder to find. So Walensky added an important caveat.

“Any mask is better than no mask, and we encourage all Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19. That recommendation will not change, ”she said.

“Most importantly, the best mask you wear is the one you will wear and that you can wear all day and tolerate in public indoor spaces.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization focused more on vaccines.

WHO officials on Wednesday stressed that distributing vaccines around the world is a top priority in order to defeat the highly contagious variant of Omicron, as well as other variants that may develop.

The WHO Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition – a group of experts that assess the performance of COVID-19 vaccines against Omicron and other emerging variants – says there is an “urgent need” for wider access to vaccines, collectively with reviewing and updating current vaccines as needed to ensure protection.

The WHO also denied the idea that COVID-19 could become endemic in a largely vaccinated country while leaving the rest of the world unprotected.

“It is up to us how this pandemic plays out,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, WHO technical director for COVID-19 response, at a press conference.

The WHO aims to vaccinate 70% of the population of each country by the middle of the year.

However, according to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, as of now 90 countries have not yet achieved vaccination rates of 40%, and 36 of those countries have less than 10% of their population vaccinated.

A staggering 85% of the African population have not received a first dose.

But progress is being made, said Ghebreyesus at the meeting.

The WHO said over 15 million COVID-19 cases were reported last week – most ever in a single week – and this is likely an underestimate.

The variant of Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa 2 months ago and can now be found on all seven continents, is replacing Delta “quickly in almost all countries,” said Ghebreyesus.

Back at the White House in Washington, Walensky said the daily average COVID-19 case number in the US this week was 751,000, up 47% from last week. The average daily hospitalization for that week is 19,800, an increase of 33%. The number of deaths has increased by 40% to reach 1,600 a day.

However, she also reported new data to support other research showing that Omicron may cause less serious illness. Kaiser Permanente Southern California published a study Tuesday showing that Omicron was linked to a 53% reduction in hospital admissions, a 74% reduction in intensive care unit admissions, and a 91% lower risk of death when compared to Delta infections.

In the study, no patient with Omicron required mechanical ventilation. The strain now accounts for 98% of cases nationwide.

However, Walensky warned that the disease’s lesser severity is not enough to offset the sheer number of cases that continue to overwhelm hospital systems.

“While we’re starting to see evidence that Omicron is less severe than Delta and that those infected are less likely to be hospitalized, it’s important to note that Omicron is still much more transmissible than Delta,” she said. “The sudden increase in cases from Omicron is leading to unprecedented daily case numbers, illness, absenteeism and stress on our healthcare system.”

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