From Alpha to Delta and now Omicron, as the pandemic goes on, so does the evolution of the COVID-19 virus. First detected in early November 2021 in Botswana, the Omicron Variant is quickly sweeping around the globe and was the fastest variant to be labeled a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
HOW CONTAGIOUS IS THE OMICRON VARIANT?
Omicron is estimated to be 3-5 times more contagious than Delta, which was twice as contagious from previous versions. Preliminary data indicates that Omicron’s incubation period—the time between when you are infected and when you develop symptoms—is shorter than for other variants according to Katelyn Jetelina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
CAN VACCINATED OR PREVIOUSLY INFECTED PEOPLE CATCH THE OMICRON COVID-19 VARIANT?
According to the CDC, current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.
CAN YOU SPREAD THE VIRUS IF YOU’RE VACCINATED?
The Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and how easily Omicron spreads compared to Delta remains unknown. The CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.
WHO, WHEN & WEAR TO WEAR A MASK
Based on all of this information, the most recent guidance from the CDC is to step up the mask-wearing again to reduce the spread of transmission – whether you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated. And stepping up means not only the frequency of the mask that you wear, but the quality and protection of the mask that you wear.
"Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There's no place for them in light of Omicron," said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
TIPS FOR UPGRADING YOUR MASK FOR BETTER PROTECTION
Correct and consistent mask wearing is critical to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As of January 14, the CDC updated recommendations, noting that while all masks and respirators provide some level of protection, wearing a highly protective mask or respirator may be most important for higher risk situations or for people at increased risk for severe disease.
Most important for any mask you choose is to ensure that it is fitted properly. The following tips from the CDC are a guide for finding a mask with the best protection available.
Wear a highly protective mask or respirator for higher risk situations
Masks and respirators (i.e., specialized filtering masks such as “N95s”) can provide different levels of protection depending on the type of mask and how they are used. Loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection. See more from the CDC updated guidelines here.
All RZ Mask styles have been independently tested to filter up to 99.9% of airborne particulates down to .1 micron - 400 times smaller than the human hair.
Choose a Mask with a Nose wire
Choose a mask with a nose wire - a metal strip along the top of the mask. Nose wires prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask. Bend the nose wire over your nose to fit close to your face.
Add layers of material - Two Ways to Layer.
- Use a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric.
- Wear a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.
- The cloth mask should push the edges of the disposable mask against your face.
RZ Masks feature the exterior mesh or neoprene shell with the interior polypropylene material filter that provides up to 99% filtration from airborne particulates down to .1 micron.
Check that it fits snugly over your nose, mouth, and chin.
- Check for gaps by cupping your hands around the outside edges of the mask.
- Make sure no air is flowing from the area near your eyes or from the sides of the mask.
- If the mask has a good fit, you will feel warm air come through the front of the mask and may be able to see the mask material move in and out with each breath.
Make sure you can breathe easily.
If you're wearing a mask with ear loops:
- Knot the ear loops where they join the edge of the mask.
- Fold and tuck the unneeded material under the edges.
- Combine two disposable masks. They are not designed to fit tightly and wearing more than one will not improve fit.
- Combine a KN95 or N95 mask with any other mask. Only use one at a time.
RZ® PUBLIC SAFETY PRODUCTS
All of the RZ Masks provide up to 99.9% protection and filtration from airborne particulates down to .1 micron in size, surpassing the N95 standard. In addition, in response to the global pandemic we created our patent-pending Exhalation Valve Caps that stop all exhaled breathe from passing through the mask filter. To use the RZ Mask for public safety reasons, replace the standard Exhalation Valves with the Exhalation Valve Caps to protect both yourself and those around you.
* TRAVEL NOTE:
All people, including workers and members of the public, regardless of their vaccination status, are required to wear a mask while entering or when located in the indoor areas of transportation hubs (e.g., airports, bus or ferry terminals, train or subway stations, seaports, ports of entry) in the United States and U.S. territories. Masks with valves are not an approved mask for public transportation. While the Exhalation Valve Caps stop all exhaled air, they are best used for non-public transportation occasions. See more CDC travel guidance and instruction here.
RZ MASK CLEANSER
RZ® Mask Cleanser is designed to keep your RZ Mask® germ-free and odor-free, with no rinsing required! Just squeeze a few pumps on to the target surface, air dry, and enjoy a clean, residue-free mask! Our spray is made with hypochlorous – a natural germ killer, and naturally-occurring chemical. It’s even great for hands, skin, and other surfaces!
RZ offers our Public Safety Bundle, that gives you 15% off the standard price when you combine an RZ Mask, Exhalation Valve Caps, RZ Mask Cleanser and a 3-Pack of F1 Filters to maintain optimum filter performance.
To read more about RZ Mask for public safety uses along with how to install your Exhalation Valve Caps, click here.