Late on Friday the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) updated its guide on COVID masks and respirators, emphasizing the fact that N95s and KN95s are more effective against the spread of the virus when worn correctly. This is during a week-long spike in cases in the US , owing to the highly contagious Omicron variant .
The agency’s website now states: “While all respirators and masks provide some protection, properly fitted respirators provide maximum protection.” For certain situations with higher risks or for people at greater risk of severe diseases , wearing a protective mask or respirator is essential.
The page also states that “some masks and respirators provide higher levels of protection than others. Some may be more difficult to wear or maintain consistently.” It is most important to wear a well-fitted mask or respirator correctly that is comfortable for you and that provides good protection.”
N95 and KN95 masks–also known as respirators–were quickly identified as the safest face coverings early in the pandemic, followed by surgical and cloth masks. Because of limited supplies for frontline workers or severely ill people, health officials requested that the public use non-valved cloth faces. The CDC now says there is no shortage of supplies, owing to better production and availability.
N95, KN95, and surgical masks are made of multi-layered propylene plastic, which is better than cotton and other woven fabrics at filtering out the small aerosolized particles that carry the coronavirus through the air. N95 and KN95 designs have to meet high health standards both in the US and overseas. Other, less common but industry-grade respirators provide protection against the disease. The CDC website has a complete list ..
The changes had been anticipated by several experts earlier in the week. At a press conference on Wednesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky addressed the question of whether the US government would be able to make N95 and other high-quality masks more available in light of the recent Omicron surge. “Any mask is better than none,” the CDC says. And we do encourage all Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19, and that recommendation is not going to change,” she said. Walensky said that the updated information from the CDC would be a guide for “the different levels protection different masks provide.” We want to give Americans the most current information to help them choose the right mask for them
For those wondering how to interpret the recent changes, if you’re living, working, or traveling in settings with a h