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CDC expected to revise mask guidelines as omicron likely to spread through cloth masks

This nonprofit sells certified N95 masks for about $1 apiece
Posted at 5:46 AM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 07:08:35-05

(WXYZ) — As Omicron continues to surge, the CDC is expected to revise its masking guidelines to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Given how infectious the newest strain is, health experts are urging caution with cloth masks and reminding people of the importance of a tightly fitted one.

This would be the CDC's first major mask guidance update since last July when the agency reminded us all to wear them again, due to the emergence of the Delta variant.

"Wearing a mask especially indoors is so important right now. The positivity rate in our metropolitan Detroit area is four times what it was a few months ago,” Chairman of Emergency at Ascension Providence Dr. Steve Mcgraw said.

With Omicron, the CDC says the mask you wear will severely impact your risk of exposure, especially in an enclosed space like say a dining igloo.

Sooner rather than later, the CDC is expected to issue new recommendations for which masks protect best against spreading COVID-19.

Before Omicron emerged, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists found that for two people wearing cloth masks, it can take around 30 minutes for the virus to spread from an infected person to an uninfected person in the same room.

If both are wearing surgical masks, that exposure time goes up to an hour. With the N95 masks, an infection would take 25 hours to spread.

Dr. Steve Mcgraw says those N95 masks are our best option for a tight seal. A more affordable option: KN95s. They are manufactured in China which he says meet some standards and are better than a cloth mask.

"The medical-grade N95 masks have very tight rubber bands that go around the head and fit across the bridge of the nose very tightly," Dr. Mcgraw said.

He says another option is double masking with a surgical mask and a cloth mask on top.

In Washington, the Biden administration is considering making high-quality masks available to all Americans.

In the meantime, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is reminding the public that any mask is better than no mask.