Covid news and the latest on the Omicron variant: Live updates

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to update information about mask-wearing on its website, including the different levels of protection that various masks — such as cloth, surgical or N95 — provide against the spread of Covid-19, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House virtual briefing Wednesday.

“CDC continues to recommend that any mask is better than no mask, and we do encourage all Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of Covid-19, and that recommendation is not going to change,” Walensky said, adding, “We are preparing an update to the information on our mask website to best reflect the options that are available to people.”

This week, the CDC and state and local public health officers and their representatives discussed how N95 and KN95 masks appear to be the most protective against the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, compared with cloth or surgical masks, Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN on Wednesday.

The CDC could offer “clarifying guidance” soon on N95 and KN95 masks, Freeman said.

“This likely will not be framed as changing guidance, so much as clarifying guidance a bit more — just because Omicron is so transmissible and we’ve always known that there are certain masks that provide better degrees of protection than other masks,” Freeman said.

Overall, it is important for people to wear any face mask that they have access to, “but Omicron has changed things a bit because it is so transmissible that we know that masks are even more important,” Freeman said. “So, I think that the timing is right for the CDC to look at what it was saying about masks and try to message more clearly that you have a choice — and that choice can give you varying degrees of protection. And if you have the chance, if you have the opportunity, if you have access to a better mask then the recommendation would be to wear it.”

Freeman added that N95 and KN95 masks need to be fitted properly to provide the best protection possible. Additionally, the CDC continues to examine data on how different types of masks help limit the spread of the coronavirus 

“It is important to keep looking at this in order to make sure that we’re aligning masking recommendations with what is going on with viruses,” Freeman said.


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