COVID-19 Roundup: Latest on ‘Double Masking’; CDC on In-Person Schooling; and Blood Pressure Meds

Does a ‘Double Mask’ Offer Better Protection? Yes. But a Single, Double-Layered Mask Works, CDC Still Says

Public health officials are saying that doubling up on masks can provide better protection against COVID-19, particularly if you’re in a high-risk group, such as adults older than 65 or those with underlying health conditions.

However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently has not changed its recommendation of wearing a single mask that has “two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric.”

The issue of double masking was raised by Anthony Fauci, M.D., the chief medical adviser to President Biden and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, in an interview with NBC News. Dr. Fauci, who is also director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, spoke about the benefits of two masks — especially as COVID-19 variants emerge which are more contagious.

“So if you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” Dr. Fauci said on NBC News’ Today. “That’s the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95.”

Dr. Fauci explained that a proper face covering prevents respiratory droplets — and COVID-19 — from spreading among people — and protects the wearer. Other contagious disease experts says that wearing a surgical mask underneath a cloth face covering provides better protection — or any reasonable combination of two masks that doesn’t restrict breathing.

Public health officials stipulate, however, that the most important factor is to wear a mask properly, even if its a single, double-layered covering as recommended by the CDC.

The CDC says to make sure you wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before putting on a mask. Also, do not touch the mask when wearing it. “If you have to often touch/adjust your mask, it doesn’t fit you properly, and you may need to find a different mask or make adjustments,” the CDC says.

CDC: In-Person Schooling is Safe if COVID-19 Precautions are Maintained

As part of a new study on in-person schooling, U.S. public health officials say the “preponderance of available evidence” shows that that in-person schooling is safe if mask-wearing, social distancing and other measures to protect against COVID-19 remain in place.

In the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is an important factor to consider: local government officials should act to keep infection rates low within communities, including limits on indoor dining and restrictions against large gatherings.

“As many schools have reopened for in-person instruction in some parts of the U.S. as well as internationally, school-related cases of COVID-19 have been reported, but there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission,” researchers stated.

Throughout the U.S., schools have adopted hybrid approaches during the pandemic, including a mix of in-person learning and online learning. But experts say that in-person learning is vital for students’ full development and access to essential services.

The study’s authors say their findings support “a path forward to maintain or return primarily or fully to in-person instructional delivery.”

Study: Blood Pressure Medications are Safe to Use for Those Hospitalized With COVID-19

Medications for controlling high blood pressure do not harm patients hospitalized with COVID-19, according to a study by an international team of researchers led by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The research, published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, is the first randomized controlled trial to find no risk for patients who continue to take blood pressure medications while hospitalized with COVID-19. Meds for hypertension are some of the most widely prescribed in the U.S. Always consult with your physician if you have any questions regarding your medications and the effects of COVID-19.

Researchers examined whether ACE inhibitors (ACEIs), or Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs) — two classes of medications to treat high blood pressure — could have a impact on COVID-19 symptoms. More than 49 million U.S. adults take medication to treat hypertension, and among those, about 83 percent (41 million) take an ACEI or ARB, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

During the early part of the pandemic, studies suggested that these medications could intensify COVID-19 symptoms. However, other research has pointed to these medications as adding a layer of protection against the virus.

“Randomized trials are important to establish a definitive answer regarding the potential impact of these commonly used blood pressure medications in the setting of COVID-19,” said study corresponding and senior author Julio A. Chirinos, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of Cardiovascular Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine. “Our trial results importantly show that these medications can be safely continued for patients hospitalized with COVID-19.”

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