Fauci endorses double-masking as highly contagious COVID-19 variant appears in Washington

Dr. Anthony Fauci is endorsing double-masking as a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 is now confirmed in two Western Washington counties.

Fauci said doubling up makes common sense and could be more effective.

“Better masks are part of the equation now. Definitely. But the masking doesn’t give you a license to go out and do everything as before,” said Dr. Alex Greninger with UW Medicine.

Greninger runs the UW Virology Lab, which has just detected the highly contagious UK variant of COVID-19 in two people in Snohomish County.

The variant was also detected in Pierce County.

“Though they’re more transmissible, they’re not omnipotent. They still need human hosts, still need close contact for the most part,” Greninger added.

Initially, health officials didn’t think the new UK variant, which is up to 50% more transmissible, caused people to get more sick.

But now Fauci has a new warning.

“We need to assume now that what has been circulating dominantly in the UK does have a certain degree of increased virulence, namely the power of the virus to cause more damage, including death,” Fauci said.

Officials are also keeping an eye out for another fast-spreading variant from South Africa.

They’re worried these variants could set back the progress we’ve made during the pandemic.

“It will delay our peak and instead of start coming down by the end of this month, it could delay it for weeks,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

IHME projects almost 6,077 COVID-19 deaths in Washington through May 1st. But if vaccine distribution is scaled up over 45 days, 108 lives could be saved. If mask use is increased to 95%, 308 lives could be saved.

“If I’m not wearing an N95 mask, I’m double-masking,” Mokdad explained. “In my case I wear a surgical mask and I wear a cloth mask on top of it.”

The best masks are N95 respirators but those are supposed to be reserved for front-line health workers.

KN95s differ from N95s because they meet the Chinese standard but are not regulated by the U.S.

Because of this, only N95 masks are approved for health care use in the United States.