Frequently Asked Questions About Face Masks Omicron & Covid
With the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 sweeping through cities in the United States, we know a lot of our readers are stocking up on face masks again. Hopefully, you’re searching for N95 and KN95 face masks.If you’re not sure what to purchase or have concerns about counterfeit N95 face masks, we’ve answered some common questions below. Keep reading to ensure you’re making an informed decision when buying the best face masks for Omicron, COVID-19 and holiday travel plans.
How dangerous is the Omicron variant?
The CDC reports that the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which was first detected in the United States on December 1, will likely “spread more easily than the original virus”. Since the Omicron variant is so new, official information is hard to come by, but early indicators show that the new mutation is more contagious but not necessarily more deadly. Anecdotally, the new variant appears to be spreading extremely rapidly here in New York City, which is undergoing a new surge. Multiple members of the SPY.com team have tested positive since December 1, and we know many people in the same situation.
What are the best face masks for Omicron?What is the difference between KN95 and N95 masks?Should I be worried about counterfeit KN95 masks?
Gvs Spr451 Elipse P100 Half Mask Respirator
The best feature of this respirator is that it is NIOSH-approved and rated P100. This means that it can filter almost 100% of all particles suspended in the air, including petroleum-based chemicals.
This N95 respirator mask is made of 100% silicone, which means it is completely hypoallergenic and very soft. It can make a complete seal around the nose and mouth, nothing can get inside the mask.
Speaking of the filters, if you will not be using them for construction purposes, they can be used for a couple of weeks to a month. You just need to replace the filters when they get too clogged up with dust.
The mask also has a downward pointing exhalation valve. What this means is if you are wearing glasses, they will not fog up every time you exhale. This also keeps the inside of the mask dry and cool.
- Looks weird when worn outside the workshop
Why Do I Still Have To Wear A Mask In Health Care Facilities
The CDC guidance is that people continue to wear face masks in hospitals, clinics, doctors offices and other health care locations. Wearing a mask protects people around you who may have not had their COVID-19 vaccines or who might have a health condition that makes them vulnerable to severe coronavirus infection.
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Nba Superstar Magic Johnson On His Love Of Travel Food Italy And More
Selecting the right mask for travel is more important than for going to the grocery store or other daily tasks, simply because the amount of time you need to wear it is much longer. Flying to Europe on a non-stop typically means two hours in the airport beforehand, seven to twelve on the plane and maybe another hour to clear customs and get your baggage, all while masked. Any flights, domestic or international, with airport connections makes this masked period considerably longer. So, comfort becomes much more of an issue and one simple tip I have learned the hard ways is that masks that loop around the ears become much more irritating than those that loop around the back of your head as the hours drag on. The skin behind the ears is the first to become annoyingly irritated, so I would mostly avoid over the ear masks for flying, though they can be great for exploring the destination once you arrive.
Dr. Ruth L. Bush, associate dean of medical education and a professor at the University of Houston College of Medicine, told TODAY.com. Research has shown that some loosely-woven masks only block 10-20% of particles, but by adding one or more layers of filter material, higher percentages of particles could be blocked.
So here are my personal favorites, borne of experience and protective features.
The Kitsbow Wake ProTech is a reusable, washable 4-layer filtering design .
Kitsbow/Jeff Greenär masksINEX GEAR
Heavy And Lightweight Options Secure Headbands: Kitsbow Face Mask
Filter: two included replacements available
Why we like it: The Kitsbow Face Mask has a pleasingly pliable nose-bridge wire and a generous cut that resists slippage. Worn filterless, the heavier solid-color varieties filter particles even more efficiently than the filter-free Graf Lantz Zenbu does the plaids, not so much, but theyre lighter and more breathable. Kitsbow is the only brand on our list offering a removable filter that generously spans the area of the mask itself, thereby maximizing the masks protective capabilities as a whole. This also means the Kitsbow masks reading from the lab is truer to real-life use than that of the Graf Lantz, Proper Cloth, or original Enro mask . Whats more, the Kitsbow features a pocket thats open on both ends, allowing easy filter placement. The masks range of sizes and easy-to-knot headbands both mean you have a higher chance of finding a good fit.
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Fit Is Important For All Mask Types
How well a mask works also depends on fit. When choosing a mask, keep in mind:
- the fit of the mask can vary depending on the size and features of your face
- masks with a flexible nosepiece may provide a better fit over the nose
- masks with ties or bands that go around the back of the head may provide a better fit
- if choosing an ear loop-style mask, use one with adjustable ear loops or use the tips below to improve fit
A well-fitting mask should:
- be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaps and not allow air to escape from edges
- fit securely to the head with ties, bands or ear loops
- be comfortable and not require frequent adjustments
- maintain its shape after washing and drying
Ways to improve fit include:
- adjusting ties, bands or ear loops
- adjusting the flexible nosepiece
- tying knots in the ear loops and tucking the sides of the mask so that it lies flat
- using a mask fitter or brace
- a mask fitter or brace is a device made of flexible material worn over a mask to help provide a snug fit
- fitters and braces may be made of plastic or silicone
Learn more about:
How To Shop For Disposable Face Masks
Read the label: The CDC recently released new standards for masks deemed workplace appropriate. You’ll know a mask meets them when it’s labeled with “ASTM F3502,” “Workplace Performance,” or “Workplace Performance Plus.” These labels guarantee that a mask is made of multiple layers of non-woven material for optimal protection.
Ensure fit: Make sure you’re buying masks that fit you as well as possible. This may take some trial and error as every brand is slightly different. And if you have to use masks that don’t fit perfectly, the CDC recommends tying knots in the ear loops, as well as folding and tucking unneeded material under the mask’s edges.
Follow CDC guidelines:Even if you’re fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These disposable masksmainly sold in bulkwill help you stay prepared so you’ll never go without one when you need it.
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Versatile And Adjustable With Room To Breathe: Graf Lantz Zenbu Organic Cotton Face Mask
Why we like it: This mask is made from tightly woven cotton twillperhaps the sturdiest-feeling fabric in any of our picks with removable filters. Along with the removable filter, the masks dense fabric helps it block out the smallest particles better than all the other two-ply cotton masks we lab-tested with their corresponding filters: around 90% for the smallest particles we tested , assuming a tight seal. More important, we found that a tight seal is more easily achieved with this mask than with most others: The Graf Lantz Zenbu has one of the sturdiest nose-bridge wires we tested it bends where you need it to and keeps its shape without feeling too stiff. Our testers found that this mask sealed off at the top better than most, reducing the potential for glasses fogging. As with the Proper Cloth mask, darts on the sides of the Graf Lantz Zenbu tent up the middle, so your mouth and nose dont feel as constricted. Similar in shape to the Baggu mask, the Graf Lantz has extra material at the top and bottom that provides additional coverage of your nose and chin this is useful if you will be talking while wearing this mask. Including the removable filter boosts this masks filtration efficiency.
Can Wearing A Face Mask Prevent Coronavirus From Spreading
Yes. Although being fully vaccinated greatly reduces your chance of catching or spreading the coronavirus, it doesnt eliminate it entirely. If you are infected with the coronavirus and do not know it, a mask is very good at keeping your respiratory droplets and particles from infecting others. If you havent yet received your COVID-19 vaccine, wearing a mask can also help prevent germs that come from another persons respiratory droplets from getting into your nose and mouth.
Since the coronavirus can spread through droplets and particles released into the air by speaking, singing, coughing or sneezing, masks are still a good idea in crowded indoor public places that contain a mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
Wearing a mask is still recommended in health care settings and other places where people around you may have risk factors for severe consequences of COVID-19. These include people over age 65 and those living with heart disease, diabetes, obesity, chronic lung disease, immunity problems or cancer.
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Comfort: Balancing Breathability With Filtration
Just the idea of something obstructing your nose and mouth can be distressinghence the appeal of lightweight, single-layer masks made of more-breathable fabric. But if your goal is to protect yourself as well as others, a well-fitting mask that balances breathability with filtration efficiency works best, assuming you keep it on.
You need to balance comfort and risk. Linsey Marr, Virginia Tech
Protecting others is relatively easy: Almost any cloth can halt the larger-than-5-micron globules shooting from your mouth when youre talking loudly, singing, coughing, or sneezing. But its snagging the 1-micron-or-smaller particleswhich can come from you and others breathing and talking at regular volumethats tough.
Early in the pandemic, health officials considered those tiny aerosols to be less worrisome. But now, more than a year later, the CDC has : COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These droplets and particles can be breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouth.
No mask is guaranteed to provide complete protection.
As CDC/NIOSH health communication specialist Nura Sadeghpour explained in December 2020, products that dont meet the standard may still have some utility, but wont be able to claim that they meet the ASTM requirements, which provide a baseline for performance.
Can I Get A Face Mask Exemption Or Waiver
No, you cannot get a waiver or exemption from wearing a face mask. Fake cards and flyers claiming the bearer is exempt from mask-wearing regulations because of a physical or mental condition covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act that makes them unable to wear a face mask or covering.
The United States Department of Justice issued a statement about these fake mask exemptions, explaining that the cards and flyers are fraudulent.
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What’s The Best Mask For My Child To Wear
As N95s are classified as a respirator, you’ll need to fit them tightly across your nose and mouth to ensure proper filtration and effectiveness. Product manufacturers usually include directions for mask wearers to ensure they’re using an N95 or KN95 correctly, but depending on which respirator you choose, it may be harder to fit the mask properly, explains Charles C. J. Bailey, M.D., an infectious diseases specialist at Providence Mission Hospital in California.
Because of their encompassing fit, Dr. Bailey and other experts caution against children using N95s or KN95s. Respirators can be much harder to breathe in than medical masks or cloth masks, which is especially challenging for kids in active settings or during physical activity. Surgical masks are better suited for children, especially those with respiratory issues or who are particularly active, over ill-fitting N95 or KN95 masks.
Dr. Bailey adds that keeping a perfectly fitted N95 or KN95 on a child would be an impractical challenge, and wearing an ill-fitting respirator won’t offer any extra protection over other mask choices .Remember: CDC officials still recommend that any child under the age of two refrain from all masks at this time, including those children with pre-existing respiratory conditions that make masks potentially harmful.
Not All Masks Are The Same
Firas Zabaneh, MT , CIC, CIE, the director of system infection prevention and control for Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, said there are essentially two types of masks that are available to the average consumer: reusable cloth and disposable.
The quality of reusable cloth masks has vastly improved since the beginning of the pandemic, Zabaneh said. Depending on the and fit, some cloth masks perform just as well as high quality disposable masks in protecting against transmission of COVID-19.
While cloth masks have experienced some criticism as to just how effective they really are, Zabaneh said that many manufacturers are now starting to conduct testing to prove their effectiveness at filtering out particles.
He said a good rule of thumb is to make sure they are doing their testing through a certified independent lab with a good reputation.
He said cloth masks are a great alternative to disposable masks for the public.
In addition to cloth masks, there are many varieties of disposable masks available, according to Zabaneh.
He said the best types are medical grade, certified by ASTM, and approved by the Food and Drug Administration . ASTM rates medical grade masks into three levels: 1, 2, and 3. The higher the rating level, the better the protection that it provides.
Some of the medical grade masks are available on the market for general consumers, he said.
The better masks are ones constructed of three or four layers of material, he added.
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Disposable N95 Kn95 Kn94 Face Masks Versus Cloth Masks
As the COVID-19 virus continues to mutate into new and more contagious variants, it’s more important than ever to wear a face covering that lowers your risk of transmission, even if you’re fully vaccinated. A mask helps protect those around you, and it also helps protect you.
According to experts, an N95 respirator is the most protective face covering that you can get against omicron and other viruses. An N95 is a disposable face covering that filters out at least 95% of airborne particles.
“An N95 is the best, if you can get it,” said Dr. Bob Lahita, director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at St. Joseph Health and author of the upcoming book Immunity Strong. “But they’re hard to get — the good ones are hard to find.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that “when supplies are available, individuals may choose to use a basic disposable N95 respirator for personal use.” It recommends N95s labeled “surgical” for health care personnel.
One popular alternative to the N95 mask is the KN95 mask, which is the Chinese equivalent of the US standard. KN95s are made from the same material as N95s and are also designed to filter at least 95% of airborne particles. Another alternative is the KF94, the South Korean equivalent to an N95, which has a slightly different shape and 94% filtration efficacy.
Other Good Cloth Face Masks With Filter Pockets
The easy-to-adjust masks below appeared on our list of favorites before our December 2020 filtration-efficiency and breathability lab tests. We still think theyll fit most faces well and comfortably. But used as is, theyre not particularly good particle blockers. The first three dont come with filters the last includes removable filters but, like the others, had a much lower filtration efficiency value than that of our top picks. In a higher-risk situation, we suggest doubling them up with a surgical-style mask or adding your own filters.
If youre looking for bright colors or whimsical designs: The roomy Baggu Fabric Mask covered and sealed comfortably for just about everyone on our panel, and each three-pack comes with an array of fun designs, including daisies and bright color combos. The inner layer is the same fabric as the outer layer, so people who have sensitive skin and are not double masking may prefer the Kitsbow or Graf Lantz masks both of those have softer cotton inner layers.
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