STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — You may have to expect to wear quality face masks outside of your home well into next year, health experts say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first suggested people should wear protective face coverings or masks when they are out in public, especially indoors, shortly after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began. And we could be wearing face masks for a while.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last month during CNN’s State of the Union that it’s “possible” Americans could still be wearing face masks and coverings in 2022.
“I think it’s possible that that’s the case and, again, it really depends on what you mean by normality,” Fauci said, when asked if Americans will need to wear masks in 2022.
And with new variants emerging and becoming more prevalent, Fauci also suggesting wearing two masks at a time, calling it “common sense.”
“This is a physical covering to prevent droplets and virus to get in,” Fauci said. “So if you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on it, it just makes common sense that it likely will be more effective. And that’s the reason why you see people either double-masking or doing a version of an N95.”
But several states in the U.S. have lifted their mask mandates, including Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, and Montana. More states are lifting other restrictions and increasing capacity at indoor spaces and public events.
Even New York State has increased capacity at restaurants, gyms, schools, and reopened movie theaters and will allow indoor fitness classes. But New Yorkers will still need to wear face masks.
Face mask requirements will remain when traveling into, within, or out of the United States, according to the CDC — on planes, trains, buses, and other forms of transportation.
WHAT IF I’M FULLY VACCINATED?
Most recently, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people can visit other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physically distancing. People are fully vaccinated 2 weeks after they received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, or 2 weeks after they received the second dose from Pfizer or Moderna.
They can also visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe disease should they contract coronavirus, without wearing masks or distancing. And they can also refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if they don’t have symptoms.
But despite being fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends people still take precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing when in public spaces.
SHOULD I DOUBLE-MASK?
The CDC unveiled the results of a study last month that found two masks are better at slowing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) compared to the use of a single medical or cloth mask.
The study utilized two artificial heads spaced six feet apart to see how many coronavirus particles were spewed and inhaled. The researchers found that wearing one surgical mask blocked around 42% of the particles from a simulated cough and that a single cloth mask fared slightly better at around 44.3%.
However, covering a surgical mask with a cloth mask blocked 92.5% of the cough particles, the study said.
Properly fitting a medical mask by knotting the ear loops and tucking in and flattening the extra material close to a person’s face also aided in the prevention of transmission, the CDC found.
The general public has been asked to wear reusable, clean cloth masks since the start of the pandemic, when medical supplies like, N95 masks, were in short supply for health care workers.
The New York City Department of Health updated its guidance last month on face coverings, recommending people over the age of 2 years old wear snug-fitting masks with two or three layers of material. It also said New Yorkers can wear two masks — with a cloth covering over a disposable mask. But don’t use two disposable masks, the DOH said.
WHAT ABOUT THE VARIANTS?
Mandated face masks could be prolonged due to several variants spreading that could be more contagious.
On Saturday, the first confirmed case of a contagious COVID-19 Brazilian variant was found in a New York City resident. The P.1 variant, also known as B1351 variant, has been designated a “variant of concern,” which means there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease and the potential for reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines.
Two other variants of the coronavirus account for 51% of current cases citywide, New York City health officials recently announced.
The health officials warned that the two variants – B117, or the variant of concern from the United Kingdom, and B1256, the variant of interest that has recently appeared in New York – are undoubtedly more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain.
Preliminary analysis of those strains show that they don’t cause more severe illness and they are not resistant to vaccines, said New York City Senior Advisor for Public Health Dr. Jay Varma.