Expert: Against Omicron, most fabric masks are just “fashion accessories”

It’s time to upgrade your mask if you’re only using a cloth covering because they don’t have to meet any health standards, says Trish Greenhalgh, professor of primary health care services at the University of Oxford. “They can be really good or really terrible,” depending on the fabric used.

NPR: To block Omicron, wear an N95 mask or other high filtration mask

With another variant of coronavirus sweeping across the United States, health authorities are once again urging people to mask up indoors. Yes, you’ve heard it all before. But given how contagious omicron is, experts say, it’s seriously time to switch to a high-filtration N95 or similar respirator when you’re in public indoor spaces. “Cloth masks aren’t going to cut it with the omicron,” says Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech researcher who studies how viruses are transmitted through the air. (Godoy, 12/23)

Bloomberg: The best masks for Covid? Cloth masks could be bad against Omicron, expert says

Omicron is once again making people think twice about looking for their colorful, reusable cloth face masks. “They can be really good or really terrible,” depending on the fabric used, said Trish Greenhalgh, professor of primary health care services at the University of Oxford. Double- or triple-layer masks made from a mix of materials may be more effective, but most fabric coverings are just “fashion accessories,” according to Greenhalgh. (Angel, 12/22)

In more news about the omicron variant –

CNN: How long should you self-isolate if you have Covid-19 but are vaccinated? There is a debate

As highly transmissible variants of the Omicron and Delta coronaviruses continue to spread in the United States, health officials are warning that more people are expected to get infected — even those who are fully vaccinated — and should stay home and self-isolate so as not to transmit the virus to others. Anyone with Covid-19 must self-isolate for 10 full days, according to current guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But this holiday season there has been growing debate over how many days to isolate if you test positive for Covid-19 but have no symptoms and are fully vaccinated – or, better yet, receive a booster dose. (Howard, 12/22)

Bloomberg: Omicron poses risks for pregnant women not vaccinated against Covid

The omicron variant increases risk for this under-reported demographic: pregnant women. Left out of early vaccine trials and faced with confusing messaging and misinformation about the dangers to their unborn children, a disproportionate number of pregnant women have avoided Covid shots. Around 75% of pregnant women in the UK and around 65% in the US are still unvaccinated, putting them among the groups most at risk of being infected and being exposed to severe forms of the disease. disease as the fast-spreading omicron strain sweeps the globe. . (Ring, 12/23)

Stat: Regulator: The need for Omicron vaccine depends on the resistance capacity of the variant

Whether Americans will need additional vaccines specifically tailored to the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus may depend on how long it has been circulating in the United States, a top regulator told STAT in an interview on Wednesday. “If it turns out that Omicron is the new variant that things are settling into, well, of course, we’ll probably need an Omicron-specific vaccine,” said Peter Marks, the lead agency for Food and Drug Administration vaccine regulations. “On the other hand, if it’s just a passing variant and we get [a new variant] in a month or two we won’t need that anymore. (Florko, 12/22)

Bangor Daily News: Omicron Further Exacerbates Shortage of Key COVID-19 Treatment in Maine

Maine currently does not have enough sotrovimab to treat dozens of new omicron patients, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah said Wednesday. In response, providers will likely limit treatments to only those most at risk patients, hospitals and epidemiologists say. “I wish as a country that we had more sotrovimab because if the country did it, then Maine would do it,” Shah said. The omicron variant was first detected in Maine last week as hospitals across the state were still grappling with the effects of an increase in delta variant cases that has hammered hospitals and strained health care resources. The US CDC has already declared omicron to be the nationwide dominant strain, and Maine health officials expect it to overtake the delta variant here within weeks. (Russell and Marino Jr., 12/23)

In related news —

The Texas Tribune: Omicron could hit low-income, uninsured Texans the hardest

Much of the past two years has felt surreal to staff at Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe, a federally licensed health center in El Paso. Seemingly overnight, the women’s health center became a coronavirus unit. They started offering COVID-19 tests and then, as soon as they could, vaccine pop-ups. They did public service announcements and went door-to-door encouraging people to get vaccinated. But despite the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, some things have come as no surprise – like how hard it has hit their low-income, uninsured customers. (Klibanoff, 12/22)

Stat: Biologist digs into Omicron, vaccines and CDC variant predictions

What does the data tell us so far about Omicron and whether it causes milder disease than previous variants of Covid-19? What can we expect as Omicron infections clash with the country’s healthcare system? Why do Omicron waves seem to decline so rapidly after reaching such heights? We do not know. So we asked Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, for his opinion. (Branswell, 12/22)

The New York Times: The flu makes an unwanted comeback as Omicron pops up

The flu virus, which all but disappeared in early 2020, is once again circulating in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported about 2,500 clinical test cases nationwide for the week ending Dec. 11. This number is typical for this time of year, but it also represents a level of cases not seen since before the Coronavirus pandemic. (12/22)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage by major news outlets. Sign up for an email subscription.