Choosing Masks: The Good, The Better, and The Best
January 19, 2022
Masking is a critical tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19. The CDC continues to recommend that anyone over two years old wear protective masks that fit well and can be worn consistently. Masks and respirators are made to contain droplets and particles that you spread when you breathe, cough, or sneeze. They also provide protection from those same types of particles spread by others. Here are the masking options in order of least protective to most protective.
GOOD Cloth masks offer the least amount of protection. If you choose to wear a cloth mask, make sure that it fits properly over your nose, mouth, and chin, has multiple layers of tightly woven breathable fabric, has a nose wire, and that the fabric blocks light when held up to a bright light source. Do not wear a cloth mask that has gaps around the sides of the face or nose, has exhalation vents, only offers a single layer of fabric that does not block light, or a mask that is wet or dirty.
BETTER Procedure masks or Surgical masks are widely available. The mask should fit properly over your nose, mouth, and chin. They should also have multiple layers of non-woven material, as well as a nose wire. Do not wear a mask that has gaps around the sides of your face and nose or that is wet or dirty.
BEST Respirators such as N-95 or KN95 offer the most protection. A respirator may be considered if you are caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19, if you are immunocompromised, work with large numbers of the public, when riding any form of public transportation including flying, when social distancing is not an option, and if you are not up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations. Some respirators are designed and tested to meet international standards. These will have markings printed on the product to indicate that they are authentic.
Even if they aren’t as effective as procedure/surgical masks, or respirators like N-95’s, it’s better to wear a cloth mask than to not wear a mask at all. There are ways to create a better fit and extra protection when wearing cloth and surgical masks. You may wear two masks (A surgical and a cloth mask) or knot and tuck the ear loops where they join the edge of the mask or use masks that attach behind the neck and head with either elastic bands or ties. Whichever mask you decide to wear, the most important thing is to remember to have the proper fit. For more information you can check out this CDC page.
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