SAN JOSE, Calif. - With more contagious variants now in the Bay Area, should the protocols we've learned over the last year change?
The announcement of the South African variant comes as the CDC recommends wearing a mask with two layers. Experts said time to double down.
"The most important thing with these variants for people to realize is that all of the tools that we already have available to us to prevent the spread of Covid work," said Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss.
Health officials said those practices face coverings, physical distancing, avoiding gatherings and handwashing more important than ever with the new South African variant circulating in California.
"It really underscores how important it is even though we are tired, even though we have been doing this for a year," said Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody.
News of the new variant in the Bay Area comes as the CDC said two masks are better than one. Research indicating two tightly fitted masks can block infectious particles by 95 percent.
The CDC recommends wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask or knotting the ear loops of a surgical mask, then tucking in the extra material.
"The bottom line is this masks work and they work best when they have a good fit," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director.
Dr. Monica Gandhi, a UCSF infectious disease expert, agrees with stronger protection.
"We actually do want to tamp down transmission of the virus because of these variants," said Dr. Gandhi.
Most FDA-approved vaccines are effective. Astra-Zenica’s vaccine has been found to be less effective.
"In terms of preventing mild to moderate disease, it appears to be less effective," said Dr. Jake Scott, Stanford University Infection Disease Expert.
Experts said the vaccines do appear to prevent severe illness.
"We don’t do the sequencing on every positive specimen," said Dr. Cody.
Health officials said there are likely more cases of the South African variant only a small number of Covid specimens are sequenced in the United States.
"We expect to receive more reports from labs detecting such variance in the coming weeks," said Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss.
Health officials said it’s critical to quarantine for 10 days after travel, mandatory for anyone traveling greater than 150 miles outside Santa Clara County.
The person infected with the new variant in the Santa Clara County did preventing further spread.