Health and Medicine

Will Omicron leave most of us immune?

By Caroline Mimbs Nyce The Atlantic

Although coronavirus cases are still being logged at an extraordinarily high rate in the United States, experts say that this latest, Omicron-driven surge seems to be peaking nationally. Americans are eager to understand what lies on the other side.

Where will Omicron leave us in our journey toward endemicity? Today, the World Health Organization cautioned against assuming that this pandemic is ending anytime soon. (And Katherine J. Wu has reported that there’s a chance Omicron could exact an even larger toll on the decline from its peak.)

Ukrainian Servicemen of the 30th Army Brigade are seen outside of Svitlodarsk, Ukraine on January 23, 2022.
(Wolfgang Schwan / Anadolu Agency / Getty)

The rest of the news in three sentences:

(1) The U.S. put 8,500 troops on alert for potential deployment to Eastern Europe amid fears Russia will invade Ukraine.

(2) The trial for three former police officers charged in the killing of George Floyd began today in Minnesota.

(3) The Supreme Court announced that it will examine whether race-conscious admission policies at several top universities are legal.

One question, answered: Should you still be wearing a cloth mask?

Our staff writer Katherine J. Wu explains:

At this point, it’s clear there is a hierarchy of mask safety. Heavy-duty masks—technically called respirators—such as N95s or KN95s and the like are at the top, because they’re snug and high-filtration. A decent notch down from these are surgical masks, which are good filters but don’t fit all that snugly around your face. Cloth masks are kind of a wild card—they can do some straight-up blocking, but many are thin and loose-fitting, and the way we make and market them isn’t standardized. So they can be a big gamble.

That said, if the choice is between a cloth mask and no mask, the cloth mask is still better. It is less good than a surgical mask or N95 respirator, but not no good at all in a pandemic where every step taken toward infection prevention can help a little bit.

If cloth masks are all that are available, or the only option someone is willing to go for, try double-layering, and try to find cloth masks that are thick and fit snugly around your nose and mouth.


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