The Best Way to Avoid the New COVID Strain, Experts Say
To avoid the new highly contagious U.K. strain of the virus, you must do these four things.
Taking precautions against the novel coronavirus has become an everyday fact of life since the pandemic began. But with the discovery of a new highly contagious variant of the virus from the U.K., medical experts are warning that the increased transmissibility will likely lead to a spike in cases on top of an already dire national surge. And with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicting that the U.K. variant will likely become the dominant strain across the U.S. by March, it's time to protect yourself and others from the new COVID strain. The good news is, much of what experts recommend is familiar advice. Read on to see what steps will keep you safe, and for more on where the variant is so far, check out The U.K. COVID Strain Is Now in These 20 States.
Keep following basic guidelines.
Some experts were originally fearful that the U.K. strain—which is at least 50 percent more contagious than the current dominant strain—could be difficult to contain. But while the virus may have slightly changed, it turns out that the best course of action for avoiding it is to keep following the same basic health precautions that have been recommended since day one, such as wearing a face mask, avoiding crowds, regular hand washing, and avoiding spending time indoors with people you don't live with.
Instead of a new routine, experts recommend simply being diligent on what we already know works. "I think there is no room for error or sloppiness in following precautions, whereas before, we might have been able to get away with letting one slide," Linsey Marr, PhD, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and leading aerosol scientist, told The New York Times. And for more on the masks to avoid, check out The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks.
Rethink your daily errands.
Even though a global pandemic may be raging on around us, the need to run to the grocery store for essential supplies still exists. But with a highly contagious strain becoming more common, the trip to the supermarket has become riskier than ever. In order to stay safe, experts simply recommend cutting back on time to limit your exposure. "Shopping for five minutes in the grocery store is a lot better—six times better—than shopping for 30 minutes," Tom Frieden, MD, former director of the CDC, told Vox. "Picking up groceries at the curbside is even better, and having them delivered is even better still." And for more on the one thing you shouldn't be doing right now, check out Stop Doing This Immediately to Avoid the New COVID Strain, Doctors Warn.
Upgrade your mask.
There's no denying that wearing a mask will help protect you and others from the novel coronavirus. But some DIY cloth masks, which were meant to be used as a stopgap during the earliest days of the pandemic, fall short of the protection you may need to stay safe amidst a new, highly contagious strain, Vox reports.
N95 masks provide the best protection, but with short supplies available, there are still other options. A study conducted by Marr's laboratory at Virginia Tech in November looked at masks made of 11 different materials and found that properly fitted cloth masks made of three layers—including a filter layer—could filter up to 90 percent of particles, bringing it close to the protection provided by N95s, The New York Times reports. If not, there's another option—Doing This to Your Mask Could Keep You Even Safer From COVID, Experts Say.
Despite the new contagious strain, medical experts still contend that the effective vaccines currently being rolled out are the most likely way to finally curb the pandemic once and for all. A recent CDC report stated that because of the new variant, it's more important than ever to get vaccinated. "Increased transmissibility also means that higher than anticipated vaccination coverage must be attained to achieve the same level of disease control to protect the public compared with less transmissible variants," the CDC said. And for more on what you should know before you get your jab, check out If You Take These OTC Meds, You Have to Stop Before Getting the Vaccine.