CLEVELAND (WJW) — As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge, doctors in Ohio are recommending wearing hospital-grade masks that are more effective at limiting the spread of the virus.

The Ohio Department of Health said 20,917 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the 48-hour period ending Sunday afternoon.

Local hospitalizations continue to set records. The Ohio Hospital Association reports 1,320 COVID-positive patients are hospitalized in the region. That figure is up 11% from one week ago and up 38% from three weeks ago.

Doctors said mitigation measures including masking and social distancing are critical to slow the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant and keep hospitals from being further overwhelmed.

They said now is the time to upgrade from a cloth mask to a mask that’s more effective in reducing the spread of the virus.

At the start of the pandemic, health officials said cloth masks could be worn amid a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment.

“I think the time is really here to retire the cloth mask,” said University Hospitals infectious disease specialist Dr. Amy Edwards.

Doctors suggest wearing a hospital-grade isolation mask — also referred to as a surgical mask — or a well-fitted N-95 or KN-95 mask that does not allow air gaps around your face.

“They would have to make sure it’s extremely well-fitted,” Edwards said of N-95 and KN-95 masks.

Edwards said it’s also important to ensure a surgical mask is made by a reputable manufacturer and provides waterproofing to prevent the spread of droplets.

If you do wear a cloth mask, it should be high quality and have at least two layers, health experts said.

On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, warned that with the rise of the highly contagious omicron, “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

“We don’t expect things are going to turn around in a few days to a week. It likely will take much longer than that, but that’s unpredictable,” he said on ABC.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.