New Variants Require New Thinking

Emergence of new variants require a change to mask face recommendations.

New variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge. But one in particular has cause for great concern in Canada because it is so contagious and spreading fast.

The variant known as B.1.1.7., which was first identified in the UK, does not appear to cause more severe infections, but has the potential to infect an estimated 50% more people. Without any enhancements to public health measures, this variant of the COVID-19 virus could become the dominant source of infection in Canada. Other variants of the virus include mutations reported in Brazil and South Africa.

The UK variant appears to behind a massive COVID-19 outbreak in an Ontario long-term care home. The outbreak has led to nearly all of the home’s residents and staff testing positive for the virus with 25 residents passing away as a result.

How can I protect myself from the new coronavirus variant?

“The first thing I say to people is that its’ not a different virus,” says Dr. Ashish K Jha, Dean of the Brown University of Public Health, in a recent New York Times interview. Dr. Jha went on to warn, “anything risking under the normal strain just becomes riskier with the variant.”

Dr. Jha’s recommendation is to wear a higher quality mask such as a KF94 mask during activities such as grocery shopping, riding the subway or spending time in a store. KF94 face masks offer substantially equivalent protection as a N95 mask, but are more readily available and more cost-effective. Dr. Jha’s advice is backed-up by Linsey Marr, professor civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and one of the world’s leading aerosol scientists, who suggests we start asking ourselves, “I am now waring my best mask (in terms of protection) when I go to the grocery store?”