Symptoms of the Omicron variant: how long do face masks protect you?
A new graphic from the Wall Street Journal offers a clue as to why cloth masks might not prevent the omicron variant from spreading.
the graphic – what was widely shared on social networks Wednesday – shows how long it takes for someone to become infected with COVID-19 if they are wearing a certain type of mask and speaking with someone who is wearing a specific type of mask (or not at all).
- The graph shows how long it would take for people wearing nothing, cloth masks, surgical masks and N95 masks to be infected by those wearing the same type of mask.
- Overall, the graph shows that wearing an N95 mask provides the best protection. In fact, someone would be protected for 2.5 hours if they wore N95 masks and spoke to someone with no mask at all.
However, the chart – which comes from 2021 – is a clear sign that cloth masks will be less effective than before. The graph shows that the omicron can spread faster and faster than the variants from 2021.
Experts have been talking about it for some time now. For example, Dr Asha Shajahan, medical director of community health at Beaumont Grosse Pointe in Detroit, told Fox 2 Detroit that cloth masks don’t stop the omicron variant.
- “You want to make sure it’s at least a three-layer surgical mask or an N-95 or better,” she said. “We want to make sure it’s not a cloth mask. A cloth mask does not provide the protection you need.
But masks, in general, may not offer enough protection against omicron because it spreads so quickly. The WSJ chart shows that there is little protection over long periods of time. And Dr William Schaffner, professor of health and infectious disease policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told Health that omicron is producing more viruses, making it difficult for people to stay safe.
- “Omicron produces more viruses, same as delta,” Schaffner told Health. “So the ability of masks to interrupt or reduce two-way transmission is also reduced. “