Pivotal moment in America’s battle against the coronavirus 💥💥💥

A federal judge in Florida struck down the Biden administration’s mask mandate on Monday after it was extended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through May 3.

The US Surgeon General said last week that part of the reason for the extension was rising Covid-19 cases and the closed settings created by travel.

Dr. Marcus Plescia, the chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told CNN that “mask-wearing on interstate transportation is still an important intervention that’s worth continuing.”

“The biggest concern is, we want people to be safe and we’re concerned that we’re not through the pandemic yet as much as people want to be, and (Covid-19) rates are starting to tick back up.”

Although the White House confirmed the mandate is no longer in place while the ruling is being reviewed, it said it still recommends people cover their mouths and noses when traveling.

But if experience from other countries is anything to go by, shifting from “compulsory” to “recommended” will likely mean most people won’t bother. Videos showing air passengers joyfully removing their masks mid-flight when the decision was announced suggest the same.

England lifted mask requirements in January, part of its new “living with Covid” strategy. While face coverings remain strongly recommended in many places, including the London Underground system, anecdotal evidence shows the majority of people no longer wear them.

In France, masks are no longer required indoors except on public transport. Judging by the situation in Paris, the divide is clear: Most people still wear masks where they are mandatory but take them off in places that only recommend them.

Still, some countries continue to impose strict mask rules.

In Italy, high grade FFP2 masks must still be worn indoors, and anyone not wearing one can be fined up to $450. Individual cities and regions can also bring in outdoor mask mandates in crowded places.

In Hong Kong, masks remain mandatory in all public places, including when exercising outside.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.

Q: Is wearing a mask while traveling still helpful if you’re the only one?

A: Face masks offer the most protection against the spread of virus-carrying particles in the air when everyone wears them. But research also suggests that masks can protect the wearer alone, by acting as a barrier between particles and their nose and mouth.

Even if everyone around you is maskless, wearing a well-fitted N95 mask can reduce the amount of infectious particles you could breathe in, according to Chris Cappa, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Davis who studies aerosol particles and masks.

“If there were theoretically 100 infectious particles that you were about to breathe in with no mask you would only breathe in five or fewer with the well-fitting N95,” he said.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.

READS OF THE WEEK

Hunger and anger in Shanghai’s unending lockdown nightmare

When the father of CNN’s Beijing Bureau chief Steven Jiang raised concerns about his shrinking food supply late last week, the catastrophe brought by Shanghai’s citywide Covid lockdown suddenly hit home.

“Will be running out in a few days if no government handout soon,” he messaged Jiang Thursday. Then, as if anticipating his son’s inevitable worry, he added: “Still have some rice and crackers — and plenty of coffee.”

It was a startling revelation of the grim reality in China’s biggest city and financial hub — from a member of the generation that lived through the Great Famine and the tumultuous Cultural Revolution that killed millions during the first few decades of the People’s Republic, founded in 1949 by Communist revolutionary Mao Zedong.

With lockdown measures turning increasingly draconian, a once almost-unthinkable topic has struck a chord with residents in the city and beyond, more so than anything else: People going hungry in Shanghai in 2022.

FDA authorizes first Covid-19 breath test

The US Food and Drug Administration last week granted emergency use authorization to the first Covid-19 test that spots chemical compounds associated with the coronavirus in breath. The FDA said the InspectIR Covid-19 Breathalyzer, which is about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage, can be used in medical offices and mobile testing sites. It can give results in less than three minutes.

The system separates and identifies chemical mixtures to detect five compounds associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection.

A study of the InspectIR Breathalyzer found that it accurately identified more than 91% of positive samples and nearly 100% of negative samples. Similar sensitivity was found in another study that focused on the Omicron coronavirus variant. However, a positive result should be confirmed with a PCR test, the FDA said.

‘Superspreading’ can still happen. But now we have the tools to slow it

Covid-19 superspreading, which involves the virus spreading at a single event on a larger scale than what is typically expected, is still possible and poses a risk.

But at this stage of the pandemic, a large event may not necessarily be an invitation to widespread, unchecked illness — if people use tools now available to limit risk, according to public health experts.

We now have authorized vaccinations that limit illnesses and infections, robust supplies of at-home tests that can indicate whether someone needs to isolate, face masks to wear in high-risk situations and therapeutics that can reduce severe disease, Jacqueline Howard writes.

TOP TIP

Taking a home coronavirus test is much more convenient than going to a clinic, but experts say there is one key downside.

Positive results from Covid-19 tests administered by medical professionals are ultimately reported and included in official numbers. But there isn’t any requirement for people to report their self-test results to health care providers or local public health departments.

That means that infection rates are likely much higher than they appear from the official data.

In the US, only 7% of positive cases are detected, which means that case rates are 14.5% higher than reported, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Reporting positive test results to your local public health department helps experts understand the prevalence of a new disease in different communities.

TODAY’S PODCAST

Most of us love the sensation of the sun on our skin or the sound of the ocean, but nature doesn’t just feel good; it’s also good for us! CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores the health benefits of nature and why we all need a regular dose of the great outdoors. Listen here.

Pivotal moment in America’s battle against the coronavirus

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