Coronavirus

Health experts advise upgrading masks due to the transmissibility of the omicron and delta variants of COVID-19.

People receive boxes of KN95 face mask during a back to school event. Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP

As the numbers of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Massachusetts continue to climb amid holiday festivities and the onslaught of the omicron variant, health experts are weighing in about the latest guidance on wearing masks.

On Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker issued a mask advisory for all Massachusetts residents when indoors. But he stopped short of a mandate requiring masks for indoor activities in public spaces.

Some cities and towns have issued their own indoor mask mandates, including Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, and Revere.

Meanwhile, health experts say people should mask up in public, indoor spaces on their own. Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and associate dean at the Brown University School of Public Health in Rhode Island advised people to “up your mask game” amid the surging COVID-19 cases.

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Dr. Philip Landrigan, director of the program for Global Public Health and the Common Good at Boston College, told the Boston Globe that quality masks, like KN95s, are essential to protect from the coronavirus.

“But any mask is better than no mask,” he said.

Shan Soe-Lin, the managing director of Boston nonprofit Pharo Global Health Advisors, told WBUR that because of the high transmissibility of the omicron and delta variants, everyone should be wearing the best masks possible.

“I don’t think cloth masks are going to cut it anymore. KN95s and even KF94 masks (the Korean paper version) are readily available now compared to last year. People should really be wearing the best one they can. If you don’t have access to either of those, then a surgical mask doubled up with a cloth one is better. And if you only have a cloth mask, then wear that,” she said.

No matter what type of masks are used, the important part is to make sure they are worn correctly fitting close to the face while covering the nose and mouth.

With climbing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, health care providers are overwhelmed. Experts say wearing masks can lower the number of cases and will ultimately save lives.

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“If you can wear a good mask right now, you’re doing the service to everybody because you will ensure fewer people get sick, end up in the hospital, or die,” Dr. Abraar Karan, an infectious disease doctor at Stanford University, told the Globe.

However, the best way to avoid serious illness and a trip to the hospital, experts say, is to get fully vaccinated.

“Please, think again and take this chance to get your shot,” Ranney said.