The type of face mask you wear can make a big difference, according to a new study published by the CDC earlier this week. Wearing a double face mask or fitting a single mask more closely on your face could dramatically reduce both the spread of COVID-19 the study found.
The CDC’s new recommendations advise Americans to select masks with a nose wire that can be adjusted for a snug fit and to use a mask fitter or brace to better seal their masks. For a better fit, it advises knotting the ear loops of the disposable face mask and then tucking and flattening the extra material on the sides.
The CDC found that wearing a three-ply cloth mask over a three-ply medical or surgical mask blocked 92.5% of particles from a cough. That is much more effective than a single mask. A surgical mask alone blocked cough particles by 42%, and a cloth mask blocked them by 44.3%.
Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the CDC, asked Americans to wear “a well-fitting mask” that has two or more layers. Dr. Walensky said that masks were especially crucial given the concern about new variants circulating.
CDC recommends that people wear face masks in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people. Effective February 2, 2021, masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
Cloth Masks vs. Hospital Masks
The difference between cloth masks and hospital masks is that homemade masks are not FDA regulated. Homemade masks can reduce the chance that the wearer transmits the virus but does not necessarily protect the wearer.
Hospital masks are regulated and protect the wearer by forming a barrier to the virus itself and offer more protection. As more COVID-19 variants appear in the US, wearing a high-quality face mask is more important than ever. Professional-grade masks can filter out particles better than a cloth mask.
N95, KN95, and KF94 Masks
N95 Masks (USA) – N95 masks filter 95% of particles as small as 0.3 microns in size. They are inspected and certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Only after being certified are they approved as medical-grade masks. The CDC recommends that N95s be reserved for health care workers only, not for the general public.
KN95 Masks (China) – KN95 masks are considered the Chinese equivalent of N95 masks and filter 95% of particles. They aren’t overseen by NIOSH and are not considered as effective as N95 masks. However, the FDA has granted EUA to several KN95 masks. The general public can benefit from wearing KN95 masks. Even KN95 masks that don’t meet NIOSH standards for filtration efficacy are probably still more protective than basic surgical masks and cloth face masks made of cotton, nylon, or other nonmedical fabric.
KF94 Masks (South Korea) – KF94 masks are the newest filtration masks. KF stands for Korean filter and 94 refers to the masks’ filtration efficacy. They feature ear loops, an adjustable nose bridge, and side flaps to create a tight fit. Unlike KN95s that meet the Chinese government’s standards of certification, KF94 masks have not yet been granted EUA from the FDA for use in health care settings. But the KF94 is an upgrade from the single-ply cotton face mask.
Correct and consistent mask use is a critical step everyone can take to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19. Masks work best when everyone wears them, but not all masks provide the same protection. When choosing a mask, look at how well it fits, how well it filters the air, and how many layers it has.