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Renewed focus on mask wearing as new COVID-19 variants emerge in U.S

Posted at 11:17 PM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 23:25:22-05

BALTIMORE — We hear it all the time…mask up!

It’s a saying that's born out of the COVID-19 pandemic and experts have long said it’s one of the best ways to slow the virus.

But, as cases climb and new variants emerge, some health officials are suggesting we upgrade the quality or even double up when we wear masks.

According to the CDC, the highly contagious U.K variant of COVID-19 is in at least 30 states across the U.S

More than 300 cases, including four in Maryland, have been confirmed and at least two states have confirmed variants from South Africa and Brazil.

“These new variants are more transmissible. Although, they don’t appear to be more dangerous,” said Dr. Esti Schabelman, who is the Chief Medical Officer at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. “They can certainly increase the number of infections we have even while we’re rolling out the vaccine.”

These new variants have public health officials stressing the importance of mask wearing, which has long been seen as one of the best weapons we have against the virus until we reach herd immunity.

“The most important thing you can do is wear you mask correctly, over your nose and mouth. Make sure it’s sealed on the sides,” he said.

The CDC has recommended wearing a tight fit washable mask with at least two layers. But, some experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have suggested double masking as a more effective way to slow the spread of virus.

“I think the best thing to do is get a high quality three ply mask. I think that’s step one. If you can do that for whatever reason, wearing a cloth mask on top of a surgical mask might provide some benefit,” he said

Baltimore resident Carly Yost said she would not be opposed to double masking if it means putting an end to the pandemic.

“To slow the spread of COVID, I’m willing to do anything,” she said. “I have had family members who passed from COVID.”

There’s also been some confusion about if you should wear a mask even after you get the vaccine.

Dr. Schabelman said absolutely yes and that’s because experts don’t know if the vaccine prevents you from spreading the virus.

He said we are inching closer and closer to the finish line and now is not the time to let our guards down.