WEST PALM BEACH, Fla .– Many health experts agree that the simple sheet masks many of us wear won’t be enough to protect us from the omicron variant.
The new focus stems from the latter strain’s ability to be much more contagious than the delta variant.
Plus, as the pandemic continues, experts have been able to learn more about how COVID-19 is spread in general.
“Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There is no place for them in the light of the omicron,” said Dr Leana Wen. told CNN recently.
The doctor advised everyone to wear either a three-layer surgical mask or an N95 or KN95 mask.
“You can wear a cloth mask on top of that, but don’t just wear a cloth mask alone,” Wen said.
Experts say that the N95 and KN95 masks not only provide a better fit on your face, but are made of special materials like polypropylene fibers that prevent tiny particles from getting into your nose or mouth.
A well-fitting N95 mask approved by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) can filter out up to 95% of particles in the air, according to the CDC.
However, you should know that the CDC says that about 60% of KN95 respirators in the United States are counterfeit (fake) and do not meet NIOSH requirements.
The CDC has not officially announced any change in its public guidelines regarding masks.
However, the Washington post, citing an anonymous official source, reported on Monday that the agency was considering recommending that people wear N95 or KN95 masks as opposed to other types.
When the pandemic began in 2020, the CDC simply requested simple cloth face covers, fearing that health workers could not access the most protective masks.
But some health experts say a shortage of better quality masks like an N95 is no longer a problem and urge everyone to wear more than just a sheet mask.
For a better fit and additional protection, the CDC currently recommends on their site wear a disposable mask underneath and a fabric mask on top.
Which mask is the best?
A University of Minnesota study looked at how long it takes a person to become infected with COVID-19, depending on the type of mask they wear around an infected person.
For example, if the infected person is without a mask and you are wearing a cloth mask, the study found that you have 20 minutes before you become infected with COVID-19.
The study indicated that it took about 30 minutes if you were wearing a surgical mask and two and a half hours if you were wearing a properly fitted N95, KF94 or KN95. Your protection time increases if the infected person is also masked.
The study found that if both people wore an N95 mask, it would take 25 hours for the healthy person to become infected with the virus.
Dr Christian Ramers told KGTV in San Diego that the caveat of this study is that it did not take into account newer variants like omicron.
“Now that we have the omicron, which is two to five times more infectious than the delta, we would take those protective numbers and reduce them even more,” Ramers said.
Some cities have launched campaigns to distribute better quality masks to the public.
This week, the city of Chicago is distributing 1.5 million KN95 face masks across the city as COVID-19 cases continue to rise from the omicron variant, according to a WMAQ report.