The Omicron variant is so contagious that most Americans will catch it, both Dr. Anthony Fauci and the acting FDA commissioner said last week. But that doesn't mean you can't successfully avoid contracting the virus right now. Why you should try: Hospitals are overwhelmed, getting even a "mild" case can be miserable, people vulnerable to severe COVID remain vulnerable, and antiviral treatments are on the way but are not yet widely available. These are seven products everyone needs to fight COVID now. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Rapid Test Kits
At-home rapid testing is key to preventing the spread of COVID, and a recent study found that a popular rapid test kit sold online and in drugstores was 95% effective in detecting the Omicron variant. The Biden administration has recently moved to expand testing: Americans with health insurance can now receive up to eight rapid tests per household member, per month, for free. You can buy the test kits over the counter and file for reimbursement from your insurance company. Additionally, starting January 19, you can order free COVID tests from the federal government at COVIDtests.gov. Four kits per household are available, and they'll arrive in seven to 12 days.
This week, the CDC advised that a high-quality mask (like a N95 or KN95) is more likely to prevent Omicron infection than a cloth mask (while noting that wearing any mask is better than none). Officially, the CDC recommends masking in public if you're in an area of substantial or high transmission, which signifies more than 50 cases per 100,000 people or a positivity rate of over 8%. Right now, that's almost all of the United States. N95 masks provide the highest level of protection, filtering at least 95% of microbes with a size of 0.3 microns. N95, KN95, KF94, and FFP2 masks are considered nearly as effective.
If you find a high-quality mask too uncomfortable to wear for prolonged periods, experts urge wearing surgical masks instead of going cloth-only or completely without. Surgical masks are made of polypropylene, which has electrostatic properties that catch virus particles and prevent you from inhaling them. They will provide some protection by themselves; for even more, you can layer a securely fitted cloth mask on top.
Experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci advise taking a daily vitamin D supplement to boost your immunity. "If you're deficient in vitamin D, that does have an impact on your susceptibility to infection," said Fauci. "I would not mind recommending—and I do it myself—taking vitamin D supplements. There is good evidence that if you have a low vitamin D level, that you have more of a propensity to get infected when there are infections around." Additionally, research suggests that a low vitamin D level may be associated with a more severe case of COVID-19—a recent study found that the vitamin may be able to "switch off" lung inflammation.
Like D, vitamin C is a serious immune-system booster. "Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system," wrote researchers behind a 2017 study published in the journal Nutrients. "Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections … supplementation with vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections."
Several studies have found that air purifiers may effectively reduce coronavirus spread by circulating the air. Purifiers with HEPA filters can actually capture the virus, as they're certified to do for any particles 0.3 microns and smaller. (The average COVID-19 virus particle is 0.125 microns.) The New York Times' Wirecutter has rated these Coway and Winix models tops (note that they tested for overall performance, not virus mitigation), while Amazon reviewers have ranked this inexpensive Levoit HEPA air purifier as #1 in the category.
Although COVID-19 is more readily transmitted through the mouth and nose than via surfaces, it's still important to keep your hands clean to fend off the virus, along with other coronaviruses like colds, flu and SRV that circulate widely this time of year. A hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol will keep your hands microbe-free when soap and water aren't available.
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.