Should you catch Omicron ‘to get it over with’ and re-use N95 masks?

Hosted by

The CDC is now encouraging people to wear N95 and KN95 masks — as opposed to cloth or one-use surgical masks — because they offer better protection against the coronavirus. But because of their high prices, some people often reuse them. But recycling them could do more harm than good. Photo by Shutterstock.

The Omicron-fueled COVID surge is pushing hospitals to the brink and causing record levels of infections. With the latest variant being so contagious, there’s a sense of “let’s just get it over with.” That lax attitude is troubling health professionals, including Dr. Jose Mayorga, the executive director of the UCI Health Family Health Centers. 

Why should people not try to deliberately catch Omicron? 

Dr. Mayorga: You do not know how serious COVID infection will be for you or the people you live with. That's a big issue. We don't want to be spreading this around, especially to those at home.

Is there an easy way to tell if you've got COVID, the flu, or something else?

When you're trying to figure out if this is COVID or the flu, the symptoms are very similar, so the best way to know is by getting tested. Now some testing sites and clinics are able to run both tests. 

Remember, if you know early on whether you have the flu, there are medications we can prescribe you to take at home. It will help with the infection. At this point, we've heard about the oral medications for COVID. Those are still hard to come by due to supply. 

But if you want to know if it's cold or the flu, make sure you get tested for both.

But what should people do when it’s hard to get a COVID appointment or find at-home tests?

If you're at home and someone [in your household] tests positive, the odds are you're also going to be positive.

This Omicron variant is extremely aggressive. One person could infect two other people. So if you're having a hard time finding a test, assume that you have it, especially if you develop symptoms.

Get that test as soon as you can, but begin all the necessary precautions to not continue to spread.

Breakthrough cases are now the norm with Omicron. If you were boosted, but still get it, are you unlikely to get re-infected by the virus?

What we do know right now is, while Delta infection does not protect you against Omicron, Omicron does appear to protect you against Delta.

We don't know what the future holds with regards to variants. So the best thing to do is to ensure that you're up to date on your vaccinations and taking the right precautions.

Is it too soon to know how long immunity from Omicron lasts?

There still seems to be some debate about that. But what we do know from prior COVID variants is that those who were not vaccinated and developed immunity from the infection are not as protected as those who were up to date with their vaccination status. 

Therefore, if you haven't gotten vaccinated, make sure you do it, even after you recover from Omicron.

The CDC is now recommending people to upgrade their masks from cloth or surgical to N95s, KN95s and KF94s. But since they tend to be pricey, can we use them more than once? 

My recommendation is not to reuse it, especially if you have not mastered how to put on or take off your mask to avoid contamination or damage.

To keep your masks uncontaminated, you should clean your hands before and after handling your mask; you should not touch the actual mask or the inside of it; you should store it in a dry paper bag, not in your pocket, purse, left in your car. 

If you have to reuse it because of cost, then do your best to minimize contaminating the inside of the mask.



Matt Guilhem


Helen Jeong, Tara Atrian