A new variant of the coronavirus has caused concern in the United States because it’s so contagious and spreading fast. To avoid it, you’ll need to double down on the pandemic precautions that have kept you safe so far.
The variant known as B.1.1.7., which was first identified in Britain, doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease, but it appears to latch onto our cells more efficiently and has the potential to infect an estimated 50 percent more people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted that this variant could become the dominant source of infection in the United States by March.
Here’s a sample of what some of the leading virus and infectious disease experts had to say about avoiding it.
The same things that have protected you from the original strain should help protect you from the variant, although you may need to be more rigorous. Wear a two- or three-layer mask. Don’t spend time indoors with people not from your household. Avoid crowds, and keep your distance. Wash your hands often, and avoid touching your face. “I think there is no room for error or sloppiness in following precautions, whereas before, we might have been able to get away with letting one slide,” said Linsey Marr, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and one of the world’s leading aerosol scientists.
The right cloth mask, properly fitted, does a good job of filtering viral particles of the size most likely to cause infection, Dr. Marr’s lab found in a recent test of 11 mask materials. The best mask has three layers — two cloth layers with a filter sandwiched in between. If you don’t want to buy a new mask, a simple solution is to wear an additional mask when you find yourself closer to strangers.
Getting the vaccine is the ultimate way to reduce risk. But until then, look at your activities and try reducing the time and number of exposures to other people. For instance, if you now go to the store two or three times a week, cut back to once. If you’ve been spending 30 to 45 minutes there, cut your time down to 15 or 20 minutes. Try delivery or curbside pickup, if that’s an option for you.
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