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What masks work best to slow the spread of Omicron?

(Jordan Vonderhaar)
Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 4:13 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - We’re heading into a new year and the third year of COVID-19. With North Carolina reporting a record-high number of cases, most people know what to do when it comes to slowing the spread of the virus. One of the biggest things people can do is wear masks, but with so many options out there, it’s hard to know what kind of masks work best.

From simple cloth masks and bandanas to medical-grade masks, there are all sorts of ways people can protect themselves, but when it comes to slowing the spread of the virus, those medical-grade masks are best. So how do you know what is best?

Doctor Paul Kamitsuka is the Cheif Epidemiologist at NHRMC/NOVANT and a physician at Wilmington Health, he offered some thoughts on how people going out, especially on New Year’s Eve, can reduce the spread.

“For the best protection against getting COVID, and anyone who is not vaccinated is very likely to get COVID --- the best protection is to wear adequate masking and I think that the standard masks that we’ve been using like cloth masks are not sufficient to protect you from a virus as contagious as Omicron,” he said.

Although cloth masks can be useful, Kamitsuka suggests doubling up your masks, that is, wearing a paper mask over your cloth mask, and making sure they fit right.

“We should all -- when we’re out and about in indoor settings -- we should ideally be wearing N95 masks or KN95 masks, or at the very least double masking ... But without the mask, all of us are highly likely to contract COVID in the form of the latest variant Omicron,” he said.

While the Omicron variant is less severe in terms of symptoms, it can still cause a backlog in hospitals and potentially cripple the economy.

“This is a viral blizzard that’s happening with omicron, fortunately, the data suggests that if you get Omicron it may be less likely to cause severe disease,” Kamitsuka said. “On the other hand, if we have so many cases as appears to be the case then even if you have a smaller percentage getting seriously ill, you’re still going to have a lot of people getting seriously ill requiring hospitalization and really clogging up our medical and healthcare system. To say nothing about paralyzing our economy, our jobs, and ability to get up and around.”

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