Stock photo

Stock photo

Up your mask game for the new year, expert says

A surgical mask provides the best protection against omicron

By Public Health-Seattle & King County

Ditch the cloth face masks, some experts say, citing omicron’s high infection rate.

Here’s a New Year resolution worth making: Ditch the cloth masks, says a UW Medicine infectious disease expert.

“I stopped wearing cloth masks months ago,” said Dr. John Lynch, Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center’s medical director for infection prevention and control. “Just to be clear, I think you should toss out your (cloth) masks or maybe hang them up as decorations.”

Instead, use respirators (like N95s), surgical masks, or masks with multiple layers, and make sure they fit well, Lynch said. “The fit is very important here and we want masks to fit against the faces,” he said.

The N95s are the gold standard, but they can be uncomfortable to wear every day. Lynch recommends that people wear a mask that they won’t remove often while in indoor spaces or crowds.

He identified useful mask information posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public Health favors surgical or KN95 masks over cloth masks, but if cloth masks are your only option, the department stresses that they should have two or more layers.

A Dec. 29 post by the American Medical Association suggested upgrading from a cloth mask to a surgical mask. “At minimum, though, consider double masking. This means wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask for a tighter fit. While double masking or a mask fitter may not offer as much protection as an N95, they are a big improvement compared to a cloth mask alone.”

All visitors to UW Medicine hospitals are handed surgical masks on entry to the hospitals, with the expectation is that they cat put it on over their existing mask for an added layer of protection.

Looking to 2022, Lynch sees signs of hope, attributing them to the significantly higher populations of fully vaccinated U.S. adults and children, and omicron’s seeming less severity than previous variants among vaccinated people.

He called the antiviral pills recently granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration a “huge leap” in the fight against COVID-19.

“The therapies are very promising in keeping people out of the hospital,” he said. “Maybe with the epidemiology of this new variant, access to treatment, testing and boosters, it may paint a picture of an exit from the uncontrolled pandemic to something that is more akin to what we deal with in influenza, or something similar.”


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Northwest

Courtesy photo
State offers free at-home COVID-19 tests

You can order the tests through the state’s new online portal.

Five-day weather forecast for King County

Thursday, Jan. 20 day Cloudy, high 53°, chance of rain 60 percent… Continue reading

File photo
WA lawmakers propose making companies responsible for recycling improvements

SB 5697 would compel industries to report data, invest in infrastructure, meet standards.

Governor Jay Inslee. Sound Publishing file photo
Inslee: Officials’ lies about election results should be crime

Governor wants lawmakers to pass legislation making it a gross misdemeanor.

Stock photo/Metro Creative Graphics
Sequim senator seeks improvements to police accountability laws

Senate Bill would allow more police vehicle pursuits; better define use of physical force

Stock photo
Leader of neo-Nazi group sentenced to 7 years for plot targeting journalists, advocates

Former Washington resident relocated to Texas after emergency order seizing his firearms

File photo
Widespread burnout among healthcare workers prompts change at hospitals

Healthcare workers unions are supporting HB 1868 and companion bill SB 5715.

Bellevue police standoff. File photo
Washington Democrats introduce bills clarifying police reforms

One deals with mental health response and the other deals with less-lethal weapons.

Most Read