As the omicron variant continues to spread rapidly across the United States, Chicago’s top doctor was asked whether it was necessary for city residents to double-mask to help avoid infection.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said that while double-masking is a good way to provide “excellent protection” to residents, it is equally important to have a mask that fits correctly.
“If you’ve got gaps, you can have droplets leaking out. We’ve been recommending wearing one of the surgical masks with a cloth mask over it,” she said. “That’s a good way to have excellent protection. If you’re wearing KN95 and the KN94’s, go for it.
“The most important thing is that you wear a mask that fits you, is comfortable, and that you keep on when you’re in public spaces,” she added.
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Arwady’s comments come as Chicago Public Schools students return to classrooms, and as COVID cases continue to surge in the city. The city is now averaging nearly 4,600 new cases per day of the virus in the last week, and hospitalizations and positivity rates have also continued to rise.
“There is a lot of COVID out there right now, and especially there is a lot of omicron and it is very contagious,” she said.
Arwady says that while children could double-mask in schools and in public places, she says that it is more important to make sure that kids have masks that they are willing to keep on.
“If your child is really uncomfortable with (double masking), pulling it off and taking it off, that’s less good than having something that they’ll keep on,” she said.
The commissioner said during the press conference that while she doesn’t know when the omicron surge is going to peak, she says that she is “85-90% confident” that the city will see omicron cases peak during the month of January.
“We are watching really closely what is happening in Europe and in the UK, because sort of after seeing that surge in Southern Africa, the next place we really saw omicron surge was in the UK,” she said. “We have definitely seen signs of slowed increase, but I will feel more reassured when I start to see some of those numbers come back down.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top medical adviser for the White House, echoed those sentiments, predicting that the omicron wave could potentially hit its peak in the U.S. by the end of January.