Dr. Fauci Warns You Must Do This to Protect Yourself Against Omicron
Find out if you're already following the infectious disease expert's latest guidance.
There were more than a million new COVID infections reported in the U.S. on Jan. 10, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That shocking number is part of the surge brought on by the Omicron variant, which is spreading so quickly that it is already estimated to account for more than 95 percent of cases in the country. While this version of COVID is causing breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people, virus experts continue to warn that the unvaccinated remain at highest risk. But if you've already been vaccinated and boosted, what more can you do to protect yourself as Omicron continues to spread? Top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, just gave new insight into how to keep yourself safer during this perilous time. Read on to find out what the infectious disease expert says you must do to protect yourself against Omicron.
Dr. Fauci says you should be wearing the right type of mask amid Omicron.
Masks have once again become an important topic of conversation as the highly transmissible Omicron variant is circulating throughout the U.S. Many virus experts have been warning since the Delta variant that cloth masks are not protective enough against more contagious variants of COVID. And in a new interview with CNN, Fauci confirmed that wearing the right type of mask is important right now.
At the same time, there isn't one right answer when it comes to choosing the best mask to protect yourself against Omicron. According to the infectious disease expert, it may come down to finding the most protective mask that you feel you can wear consistently.
"I recommend you get the highest quality mask that you can tolerate and that's available to you," Fauci told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Jan. 11.
This means you might want to seek out an N95 mask—if you can tolerate it.
According to the CDC, a properly fitted N95 respirator that has been approved by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health can filter up to 95 percent of particles in the air, making it the most protective mask against COVID. But for much of the pandemic, CDC guidelines stated that surgical-grade masks and N95 respirators should be reserved for health care workers.
Fauci told Cooper that this kind of guidance no longer applies, because these masks are no longer in short supply. "Right now, there doesn't seem to be any shortage of the masks that were some time ago not available," he said. "If you can tolerate an N95, do it. If you want to get a KN95, fine."
The CDC says your mask should have two specific qualities.
The CDC has also been discussing proper mask usage as the spread of Omicron continues. During a White House press briefing on Jan. 12, Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the CDC, said that the agency is still recommending that people in the U.S. wear "well-fitting" masks to protect themselves against this newer COVID variant. But alongside fitting well, Walensky echoed Fauci's advice and said the mask you should be wearing right now also needs to be comfortable.
"The best mask that you can—that you wear is the one that you will wear and the one you can keep on all day long—that you can tolerate in public, indoor settings and tolerate where you need to wear it," she said. "We want to highlight that the best mask for you is the one that you can wear comfortably."
Experts say any mask is still better than no mask.
At the end of the day, both Walensky and Fauci confirmed that even given updated guidance, the CDC's official recommendation is that any mask is better than wearing no mask at all. According to Fauci, cloth mask don't offer as much protection as other masks, but they do still limit the spread of COVID to some extent.
"What the CDC has said—and it gets misinterpreted—they're saying wearing any mask is better than no mask at all," Fauci said. "But there is a degradation of capability of preventing you from getting infected and preventing you from transmitting it to someone else. So, we should be wearing the best possible mask that we can get. That's a fact."