Some businesses and schools have reportedly reimplemented the “pandemic-era rule” regarding masks, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not announcing any new mask mandates with the latest COVID-19 variant on the rise.

The CDC reported that, “based on what CDC knows now, existing tests used to detect and medications used to treat COVID-19 appear to be effective” with the coronavirus variant labeled BA.2.86 and that “scientists are evaluating the effectiveness of the forthcoming, updated COVID-19 vaccine.”

All the recommended “prevention actions” against the new COVID-19 variant reported by the CDC include the following:

  • “Get your COVID-19 vaccines, as recommended.”
  • “Stay home if you are sick.”
  • “Get tested for COVID-19 if needed.”
  • “Seek treatment if you have COVID-19 and are at high risk of getting very sick.”
  • “If you choose to wear a mask, wear a high-quality one that fits well over your nose and mouth.”
  • “Improve ventilation.”
  • “Wash your hands.”

The Deseret News reported that “the latest COVID-19 strain is being described as reminiscent of the early days of omicron.”

Is the latest COVID-19 variant another omicron?

Attitudes about bringing back masks

The Arizona Republic reported in an opinion piece that the handling of COVID-19 by public officials decreased some of the public’s trust in both government and health-care experts.

Convincing Americans to don their masks for a second time around will reportedly be difficult, despite “more and more public-health officials” that are “dusting off their old face masks and encouraging Americans to do the same for the new BA.2.86 variant of COVID-19.”

The New York Times reported that as the dwindling number of Americans still taking the precaution to wear a mask are steadfast in wearing masks, director of the pandemic center at Brown University School or Public Health, Jennifer Nuzzo said, “It’s absolutely reasonable that people would differ in terms of what risks they think is worth it.”

“I feel like there’s been a reordering of the risk universe,” Tanya Keith, a Des Moines resident still taking precautions, told the Times.

CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook said, “What’s the weather out today? If it’s raining, you will probably want to bring an umbrella. If you are in an area where there is an uptick in airborne respiratory infections like COVID, flu or RSV, you may want to take extra precautions, such as wearing a high-quality mask in indoor public spaces.”

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Why masks probably won’t come back

The Deseret News reported that Kelly Oakeson, chief scientist for next generation sequencing and bioinformatics for the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, said regarding the new COVID-19 variant BA.2.86, “This just seems to be like another one of those variants cropping up that we expect from time to time. There’s no more severe illness with this.”

Oakeson continued, “Am I changing any of my behaviors? No.”

The Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association published a study that found that in regards to wearing masks “common reasons for oppositions included physical discomfort and negative effects, lack of effectiveness, and being unnecessary or inappropriate for certain people or under certain circumstances.”

Alabama state Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, a physician, reportedly told 1819 News, “If you want to wear a mask, wear one, but I don’t want any mandates.”

Stutts further elaborated, “I’m hopeful that people learned that it didn’t work last time and it just ran its course. We totally lost sight of everything. The original deal was to wear a mask and social distance to flatten the curve, and that didn’t occur. Then there was, get a vaccine and you can’t get it, and that wasn’t true.”

In order to prepare for the new variant, experts reportedly plan “to track emerging variants ‘with strong surveillance’” and Utah is already routinely “monitoring wastewater for COVID-19 as well as other indicators of spread, including emergency room visits.”

“This is going to keep happening. ... Viruses mutate. This is what they do,” Oakeson said according to the Deseret News. “It was a really significant change and caused a lot of illness. We just want to make sure we’re prepared.”