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KPCC: State Ditches Vaccine Requirement for Kids, How At-Home Tests Are Affecting Case Counts, Breath Test to Detect COVID, and More

KPCC show AirTalk recently featured Sam S. Torbati, MD, co-chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, discussing when to wear a mask and who should wear one now that it's optional.

Masks have become part of the new normal even as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wind down. But even as cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County have decreased and masking requirements have eased locally and nationally, new variants have emerged, and Torbati said it's not time to ditch masks altogether, especially when traveling. "We’re still in the middle of a pandemic. There’s still a lot of, you know, BA.2 around. We’re not out of the woods," Torbati told AirTalk host Larry Mantle.

Torbati recommended that those who are at higher risk for developing complications from COVID-19 should continue wearing a mask.

"Those are patients that are older, patients that are immunocompromised, certainly patients who have not been vaccinated for any reason, or people we know don’t mount a response to vaccines because of underlying medical conditions or medications," Torbati told Mantle. "It's also a good idea if you're going to be in a tight space, if you're going to be on a bus, on a plane, anywhere where there's a lot of strangers that you don't know."

When wearing a mask, Torbati recommended choosing a high-quality one like an N95. "The N95 is designed by definition to protect at least 95% of the aerosolized particles from reaching the human," Torbati told Mantle. "Regular cloth masks could be as low as sort of 40% to 60%."

In addition to masking, Torbati encouraged listeners to get vaccinated and boosted when eligible. "Vaccines are going to be continuously available. We know that they’re going to last a particular amount of time for particular variants that will be prevalent in the community, and the vaccines are incredibly safe," Torbati told Mantle.

Click here to listen to the complete interview from KPCC.