Masking is a critical public health tool for preventing spread of COVID-19

Here is some great information to share with your patients/employer clients. 

Friday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated information about masks and respirators on their consumer webpage, emphasizing that when worn correctly, respirators such as N95s and KN95s are more effective against the spread of COVID-19 than other mask options. 

The Omicron variant spreads much more quickly than its predecessors. One study estimates the variant could be up to 3.7 times more transmissible than the already very infectious Delta variant.

The CDC shared “While all masks and respirators provide some level of protection, properly fitted respirators (N95s and KN95s) provide the highest level of protection. It is most important to wear a well-fitted mask or respirator correctly that is comfortable for you and that provides good protection.”

What you need to know: 

  • Wear the highest quality mask you can tolerate. A well-fitted mask is better than no mask at all.  
  • When purchasing an N95, make sure it is National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved. They filter at least 95% of particles in the air. Only American made N95s can have the NIOSH approval.
  • About 60% of KN95 respirators on the market do not meet the requirements to be equivalent to an N95. 
  • If you’re not sure where to get a NIOSH-approved N95, your safest bet is to stick with reputable brands—Honeywell, Kimberly-Clark (Kimtech), 3M, and Warren’s ivWatch. To avoid counterfeits when shopping online, go to the manufacturer’s store and buy directly from them instead of choosing a product from the results page. Another good resource is Project N95, which sells a wide range of certified masks.
  • Don’t wear any masks with exhalation valves, vents, or other openings.
  • Both cloth and surgical masks should have a nose wire, be properly fitted around the nose, mouth and chin to prevent leaks, and have no gaps at the sides. 
  • Cloth masks should have multiple layers of tightly woven fabric.
  • If choosing to wear a surgical or cloth mask it is recommended to wear two (a surgical mask underneath AND cloth mask on top).

Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist says “The best mask is the one that is worn. Wearing any mask properly is better than no mask. And wearing a mask below your nose or mouth (improperly), is like wearing no mask. If you really want to protect yourself a higher-grade mask is better than a cloth mask. N95s are the best, but it’s ok to mix and match based on your situation. For example, when you are in low-risk environments wear your cloth mask, but if you are in high-risk environments wear the N95.” 

Covid Boosters

We know many of you have seen the announcement below which started with the FDA, moved to the CDC, was voted against by the CDC panel, and then the Director of the CDC stepped in to overrule. It was a dramatic few days to say the least. What are you doing to make sure your employers are aware of this change? What is your clinic or healthcare system doing to support the needs of your employer community? They need us to be the source of truth as they navigate these frequently changing, confusing, healthcare changes. One thing we are doing at my healthcare system in Charlotte, NC is working with marketing to create a simple piece of education on the list of people that are eligible for boosters. We also are listing out the medical conditions that qualify. Then we are listing out all the locations for access to Covid booster AND flu vaccines. Best of luck navigating this next phase in the face of Delta variant. Our communities are so lucky to have PAs that serve then in occupational medicine!

Reference: CDC Statement on ACIP Booster Recommendations | CDC Online Newsroom | CDC

"On September 23, 2021, CDC’s independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended certain populations receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 Vaccine at least six months after the completion of their Pfizer vaccine primary series. In addition, the CDC Director recommended a booster dose for those in high risk occupational and institutional settings.

CDC recommends: 

  • People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series;
  • People aged 50 to 64 with certain underlying medical conditions should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series;
  • People 18 to 49 who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 due to certain underlying medical conditions may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks; and 
  • People aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.
The resources below from the CDC have been updated to reflect this new Pfizer booster recommendation, but these resources will continue to be revised and available in the days ahead: This updated interim guidance from CDC applies to millions of adults in the U.S., and follows the September 22 decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in support of this allowance.

ACIP will continue to meet to evaluate new data and may recommend booster shots for other populations and vaccine recipients soon."

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