New COVID-19 Variants: 7 Key Questions Answered By Experts
How are the new variants affecting existing safety precautions?
Health officials are urging everyone to keep practicing social distancing, maybe even more than before, avoid indoor gatherings and wear face masks in public.
“We do still have the tools to cut down on this becoming a predominant strain, and we just need to be much more stringent about using them,” Gronvall says. “Masking and open air and social distancing will still work.”
Even without the higher risks of contracting any of the new strains, the extensive outbreaks in many parts of the United States should still make us think twice before engaging in any activities that involve other people outside our household, particularly moderate to high-risk activities like traveling by plane, dining out or using public transportation.
In addition, according to Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, we need better face masks. “People really need to upgrade their masks,” he says. “We have this mental model that there are N95 masks and everything else and that’s not true.” He suggests KF94 masks, which can filter out 94% of particles or wear double cloth masks.