What should people know about these new sub-options, especially since many gather at celebrations such as Mother’s Day and graduation? What precautions should be taken? How can people assess their own risk and are there any gatherings that people need to skip?
Dr. Leana Wen: We know that the original Omicron variant was already portable from previous variants like the Delta variant. People infected with Omicron usually have a milder disease than those infected with Delta. And although vaccines are less effective against Omicron than against some of the previous variants, vaccines and boosters still provide excellent protection against serious diseases due to Omicron.
The same seems to be the case with these new Omicron subvariants. There is no evidence that they cause more serious diseases, and vaccinations and supplements are still the best form of protection against serious diseases. Still, they seem to be even more portable than the original Omicron BA.1, which means avoiding the coronavirus is even harder than before.
CNN: Are these new subvariants still spreading the same way?
Wen: That. Recall, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is a respiratory virus that can be spread by close contact and airborne (airborne). If you are near someone who is infected and they are coughing or raining, these particles can be transmitted to you.
Also, since Covid-19 is transmitted by air, it could only be transmitted if someone is breathing or speaking. There is also a theoretical possibility of surface transmission, which means that if someone who is infected touches the doorknob, then you touch it and then touch your nose or mouth, you can be infected.
These new variants are so contagious that a canvas mask is simply not enough. You really should wear a high quality respiratory mask, such as N95, KN95 or KF94. Make sure the mask adheres well. Adults who cannot tolerate such masks or children who are too young to wear these masks should wear at least a three-layer surgical mask. To ensure a better fit, you could also wear a canvas mask on top.
CNN: What precautions should be taken ppeople take when they go to prom parties, Mother’s Day celebrations and other events?
Wen: There are three main types of precautions – vaccines, testing and masking. How much you decide to take depends on your health circumstances, the level of Covid-19 in your community, and your own risk budget as to how much you want to continue to avoid Covid-19.
First, let’s talk about three precautions. Vaccines and boosters protect very well against serious diseases. They also reduce the possibility of infection. Make sure you are up to date with your amp, including deciding on another booster if you qualify.
Taking a quick home test just before socializing can also reduce the risk. These tests measure how contagious you are at the moment, so they should be taken as close to the gathering as possible. A negative test three days ago just says you don’t have enough Covid-19 at that point to show up for the test; don’t say you’re not contagious now. If everyone takes a negative test just before the rally, it also reduces the risk.
Of course, masking also reduces the risk. I don’t think it’s very practical to ask people to gather in masks for dinner, and many social events that include food and drink can’t realistically impose masking. But if you’re a person at high risk for severe Covid-19 disease and really want to avoid the coronavirus, it’s always a choice for you to disguise yourself even when others around you aren’t.
You can attend the award ceremony in N95 or another high-quality mask. You could go to the front desk after others have eaten and drank, but you decide not to. And you could just choose to go to a small gathering for Mother’s Day with the immediate family, all of whom are cautious and tested just before, rather than to a big party.
CNN: Would you recommend that events have vaccine and testing requirements?
Wen: It depends on the event. If it’s outdoors, I don’t think any condition is needed. Indoor events with a lot of people, especially in areas with higher Covid-19 transmission, should consider seeking evidence of vaccination and ideally a stimulant. Same-day testing also reduces risk.
If you are at high risk for complications from Covid-19 or if you really do not want to get coronavirus, you may need to take extra precautions yourself. Wear a mask, as I mentioned, and skip indoor events with food and drink, unless you’re okay giving up food and drink and masking all the time. Make a plan in advance, including choosing to leave if you feel uncomfortable.
I would also advise people that every time you hang out with others, you are at risk of contracting Covid-19. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get together. This means that you should be aware of your risk and think in advance how much you want to continue to avoid the coronavirus. If you want to avoid this, take extra precautions. Know that new and even more contagious subvariants mean that it is even harder to avoid coronavirus than before.
Some people may decide that they really want to attend a higher risk event despite the risks. If this is the case, they should be tested three days after the event and certainly before visiting family members with weakened immune systems. Also, know in advance if you qualify for treatment such as antiviral pills.
At this time of the pandemic, it is unrealistic to tell people to avoid gatherings. But we can help people understand and weigh their own risks, and also take precautions both at and after events to reduce the risk to themselves and others around them.