Covid-19 Latest Updates: CDC’s New Guidelines & 5 Things Help You Against The New Variant
|New variants of the coronavirus are so contagious and spreading fast. Photo: Fox21|
With several new COVID-19 variants now circulating, experts say it's worth being extra cautious. And it's time to double down and really commit to taking the precautions we know can protect ourselves and others from the coronavirus.
New variants of the virus that causes COVID-19
According to the CDC, multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are circulating globally:
- The United Kingdom (UK) identified a variant called B.1.1.7 with a large number of mutations in the fall of 2020. This variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. In January 2021, experts in the UK reported that this variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding. It has since been detected in many countries around the world. This variant was first detected in the US at the end of December 2020.
- In South Africa, another variant called B.1.351 emerged independently of B.1.1.7. Originally detected in early October 2020, B.1.351 shares some mutations with B.1.1.7. Cases caused by this variant have been reported in the US at the end of January 2021.
- In Brazil, a variant called P.1 emerged that was first identified in travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan, in early January. This variant contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies. This variant was first detected in the US at the end of January 2021.
|Photo: Associated Press|
These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.
So far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway.
The new guidelines by CDC and 5 things to protect yourself:
1. Tighter-fitting masks provide better protection
The CDC on Wednesday released a study on how to ensure masks offer the best protection possible against coronavirus infections. The evidence showed that wearing a tightly fitted surgical mask or a cloth mask over a surgical mask can significantly decrease the spread of COVID-19.
|Photo: Bluestern Health|
The study found that transmission of the virus can be reduced by up to 96.5% if both an infected individual and uninfected individual wear tightly fitted surgical masks or cloth masks over surgical masks.
The best way to ensure a tight fit with a single surgical mask, according to the CDC, is to knot the ear loops and tuck in the sides close to the face. The CDC also recommended wearing a mask fitter or brace, which can fit over a cloth mask or disposable mask, to make sure no air is seeping in or out around the edges.
2. Doubled masks are only sometimes better than one
Biden administration officials want people to wear masks, but the CDC is not specifically saying people need to double mask whenever they’re outside their home, The Hill cites.
A cloth mask over a surgical mask offers the best protection, but any kind of facial covering is better than none at all. During a call with reporters discussing the study, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky emphasized that the agency's guidance on masks was not changing.
|Photo: Yahoo News India|
However, the CDC also cautioned that double masking does not always offer the best protection. For example, doubling up disposable masks will not help improve fit, nor will combining any type of mask with a KN95 respirator.
3. Prioritize good ventilation
In some cases, COVID-19 can also spread via airborne transmission, which means that smaller particles containing the virus may linger in the air or travel farther than six feet. Airborne transmission is most likely to happen when people are interacting indoors, without masks, for at least 15 minutes, according to Yahoo.
But having proper ventilation reduces the chances for both droplet and airborne transmission to occur. The airflow essentially carries droplets that may contain the coronavirus away rather than allowing people to inhale them or for them to fall into someone's eyes, nose, or mouth. You can improve your airflow situation by opening windows (and, if it's safe, doors), being outside, or using fans or air filtration systems indoors, the CDC says.
4. Get tested when appropriate
Providing adequate testing for COVID-19 has been an issue in the U.S. since the early days of the pandemic. But more testing—not less—will significantly help us contain and reduce the toll of COVID-19.
|Photo: Coronavirus Testing|
The CDC recommends that you get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19, have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, and if you've taken part in risky activities (like traveling, attending large gatherings, or being indoors where social distancing wasn't possible for extended periods of time).
But it's important to remember that even if you test negative for COVID-19, this does not mean it's okay to skip the other items on this list (including wearing a mask and social distancing).
5. Avoid crowds and unnecessary outings
Anyway, the most important thing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to reduce the amount of time you spend with people who aren't already in your household. That includes non-essential gatherings with small numbers of people as well as hanging out in larger crowds.
Crowds pose unique risks because having more people in one area makes it more likely that someone has COVID-19 and, if it spreads, more people are at risk for developing the infection. The virus is also more likely to spread between people who are in close proximity (especially indoors and/or without masks).
If you do decide to spend time with people you don't live with, it's important to reduce the risks associated with that activity as much as possible, which could mean wearing masks, keeping the number of attendees as low as possible, and holding the gathering outside.
CDC's Explanation about mask use and carbon dioxide: Wearing a mask does not raise the carbon dioxide (CO2) level in the air you breathe
A cloth mask does not provide an airtight fit across the face. The CO2 completely escapes into the air through the cloth mask when you breathe out or talk. CO2 molecules are small enough to easily pass through any cloth mask material. In contrast, the respiratory droplets that carry the virus that causes COVID-19 are much larger than CO2, so they cannot pass as easily through a properly designed and properly worn cloth mask.
Other things to notice
Wash your hands frequently.
The respiratory droplets and aerosolized particles that spread COVID-19 can also land on the ground, products at the grocery store, doorknobs, or elevator buttons, for instance. If someone touches one of those items and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth, they could become infected.
Experts say this mode of transmission—fomite transmission—is not the main way that COVID-19 spreads, but it's still important to prevent it as much as possible. That means you should sanitize shared spaces regularly and wash your hands frequently. It's especially important to wash your hands at certain times, such as before eating, before touching your face, and after going to the bathroom. If you're in a situation where you can't wash your hands, you can use alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead (as long as it's at least 60% alcohol).
Stay socially distanced.
Experts now agree that the coronavirus spreads most often through droplet transmission. This occurs when someone who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, talks, or yells, which causes them to expel respiratory droplets that can contain the virus. Someone else can then inhale the droplets, or they can land in that person's eyes, nose, or mouth, and go on to infect them.
Staying socially distanced—meaning staying at least six feet away from people you don't live with—reduces the chances that someone else's respiratory droplets will reach you.
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