Press Release – Upgrade your mask

New Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19

Information about the characteristics of these variants is rapidly emerging. Scientists are working to learn more about how easily they spread, whether they could cause more severe illness, and whether currently authorized vaccines will protect people against them.

The discovery of highly transmissible coronavirus variants in the United States has public health experts urging Americans to upgrade the simple cloth masks that have become a staple shield during the pandemic.

The change can be as simple as slapping a second mask over the one you already wear, or better yet, donning a fabric mask on top of a surgical mask. Some experts say it is time to buy the highest-quality KN95 or N95 masks that officials hoping to reserve supplies for health-care workers have long discouraged Americans from purchasing.
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New coronavirus variants seem to be cropping up everywhere. There’s one from the U.K., which is more contagious and already circulating in the United States. There’s one from South Africa, which is forcing Moderna and Pfizer to reformulate their COVID-19 vaccines and create “booster” shots, just to make sure the vaccines maintain their efficacies.

But for some scientists, the most worrying variant might be the newest one. A variant called P.1, which emerged in early December in Manaus, Brazil, and by mid-January had already caused a massive resurgence in cases across the city of 2 million people.

On Monday, officials detected the first confirmed case of P.1 in the U.S., specifically in Minnesota. The state Department of Health picked up the case by randomly sequencing 50 nasal swabs from positive patients each week. The person infected with P.1. had previously traveled to Brazil.

What we do not know

Scientists are working to learn more about these variants, and more studies are needed to understand:

  • How widely these new variants have spread
  • How the disease caused by these new variants differs from the disease caused by other variants that are currently circulating
  • How these variants may affect existing therapies, vaccines, and tests

What it means

Public health officials are studying these variants quickly to learn more to control their spread. They want to understand whether the variants:

  • Spread more easily from person-to-person
  • Cause milder or more severe disease in people
  • Are detected by currently available viral tests
  • Respond to medicines currently being used to treat people for COVID-19
  • Change the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines

What we can do (according to CDC)

  • Wear a mask
  • Stay at least 6 ft away from others
  • Avoid crowds
  • Make sure indoor spaces are well ventilated
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer
  • Get a vaccine when one is available
Press Release – Upgrade your mask

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