COVID Delta Variant Is Spreading Quickly In The United States
With more than ¼ of the American population still unvaccinated and the COVID delta variant causing surging infections in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reversed their previous guidance this week and is now recommending once more that all Americans, whether they are vaccinated or not, wear masks indoors in public spaces in places where the coronavirus is spreading. The fact show that cases are now rising in most every state with hospitalizations surging in states with low vaccination rates. Over 80% of the new cases are the COVID delta variant. While most of the outbreaks are happening among unvaccinated individuals, wearing a mask regardless of vaccination status can protect everyone.
In May when the CDC suggested that vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks, indoors or out, the US joined a few other western countries to move away from mask usage before the end of the pandemic. Now, less than three months later, the CDC announced it had again changed its guidance on masks based on data showing that vaccinated people infected with the highly infectious delta variant carry the same viral load as unvaccinated people who are infected. The World Health Organization (WHO) is also currently advising all people, vaccinated or not, to continue wearing masks when around others as long as there is community spread. The facts are in and masks protect against the COVID delta variant.
In addition, the CDC also provided new guidance on face masks in schools and is now advising all students and staff to wear masks during in-person learning, regardless of their vaccination status. The guidance could serve to reassure educators nervous about coming back into the classroom and give comfort to working mothers looking to re-enter the workplace. Meanwhile, the debate over face masks rages on, divided largely along partisan lines, and has spurred more discussion about mandatory vaccinations in government, higher education, and workplaces.
Which Masks Protect Against the COVID Delta Variant?
Experts say that masking up again is essential to combat the highly contagious delta variant. It’s reported to have similar levels of concentrations in the air and permeability as the original COVID strains, but the quality of the mask does matter. A KN95 or N95 mask is going to give a lot more protection since both masks are designed to filter 95% of particles. We know that masks are effective against every variant that this virus has produced when they are tight fitting and used properly to cover the nose and mouth. And, wearing masks can prevent us from shutting down our economy again. Because the delta variant is so contagious, some health care experts are now questioning the effectiveness of cloth masks which are reusable after laundering and disposable surgical masks which are cheaper. That could lead to renewed interest in N95 and KN95 masks that fit much tighter. A well-fitted N95 or KN95 mask is extremely effective in stopping the virus, more so than a cloth or disposable surgical masks.
What’s the difference between N95 and KN95 Masks?
Simply put, N95 masks are the US standard for respirator masks (United States NIOSH-42CFR84) while KN95 masks are the China standard (China GB2626-2006). The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a division of the CDC, requires manufacturers to meet the NIOSH standards in order to label their masks as N95s but, despite differences, the two masks are nearly equivalent on many critical features. One advantage of KN95 over N95 mask is that to be certified, the China government requires the manufacturer to run mask fit tests on humans while the N95 mask standard does not require manufacturers to run fit tests. Check out all the details of the differences between N95 and KN95 in this comparison chart.
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