While some states have lifted mask mandates, many people will still use masks to protect themselves and others from the more transmissible variant of Omicron.People may need to wear one when visiting a loved one in the hospital, traveling on a plane or bus, or working in hospitality or retail.
If used properly, a respirator mask can prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID) more effectively than a cloth or surgical n95 mask. There is no harm in wearing one at all.A guide to getting the most out of your respirator is provided here.
How Do Masks Differ?
Any mask is better than no mask. However, not every mask is the same.N95 respirators can filter out up to 95% of particles in the air due to the tight fit and the synthetic material, which is made up of tiny fibers with electrostatic charges. As the Chinese equivalents of N95s, KN95 masks are supposed to meet the same filtering standards, but their manufacturing is less regulated. South Korea makes KF94 masks. Suitable for wearing properly, they can filter out as much as 94% of particles when made in accordance with Korean government standards.
The JAMA Internal Medicine study published in 2020 found that surgical masks do not fit as tightly and provide significantly less filtration than N95s. In contrast to surgical masks, cloth masks provide even less filtration than physical barriers.
Which Mask Is Best for Omicron?
The high transmissibility of Omicron has changed how we should protect ourselves against getting it, according to Dr. Mohammad Sobhanie, an infectious disease physician at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. One way to do this is to wear a good mask and other best practices like vaccinations, distance, and ventilation.
According to a study published in 2021, N95 masks reduced the risk of health care workers contracting COVID-19 by halving it compared with surgical masks. The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study showing that when a sick person and someone nearby wears N95-style masks as opposed to surgical masks, the risk of COVID-19 transmission can be reduced up to 75-fold. A handy infographic in The Wall Street Journal approximates how well different masks prevent transmission.
What Are Some Ways to Tell If a Mask Is Authentic?
It’s quite common to find knockoffs. According to the CDC, there are about 60% fake KN95 respirators sold in the United States.
As defined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a true N95 mask meets these standards. NIOSH warns that respirators without NIOSH markings, with decorative add-ons like sequins, with ear loops instead of headbands, or claiming to be suitable for children are likely fakes. NIOSH’s standards do not apply to children since it is an occupational safety agency.
Taking into account that KN95 and KF94 masks are manufactured outside the United States and thus follow different regulatory structures, it’s even harder to determine whether they’re real. However, there are a few things to look for. Authentic KF94s are made in South Korea, and KN95s made according to the latest standards should be marked with “GB2626-2019,” Wirecutter reports. KN95s marked with a “GB” number ending in 2006 were made according to earlier standards but should still work as long as the expiration date hasn’t passed.
Is It Possible to Reuse an N95?
The N95 mask is only designed for one use. As long as the mask is visibly soiled or no longer fits snugly, Sobhanie says you should discard it. Experts at the University of California, Riverside advise keeping a mask in a brown paper bag in a room-temperature, dry environment for a few days. By that time, all the germs on the mask should have died.