As the coronavirus continues to spike across the country, some experts say that mask guidance should identify the kind of masks the public should be using, according to expert interviews published in the The Washing Post.
The former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Scott Gottlieb recently stated in an interview that "Delta is so contagious that when we talk about masks, I don't think we should just talk about masks." "I think we should be talking about high-quality masks," such as N95 respirators.
For people who are unvaccinated and are vulnerable to severe disease, or for individuals who are fully vaccinated but may still be at risk of breakthrough infections, then "it's a fantastic idea at this point in time to move toward higher-quality masks," said Chris Cappa, an environmental engineer and professor at the University of California at Davis.
These are some factors from Chris Cappa and other experts who say you should consider the use of N95 masks.
N95 masks provide the highest level of protection
According to Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech, the filter efficiency of a mask is based on the material and fit. Medical-grade particulate respirators, such as N95 masks, can provide better protection from infected covid particles than surgical masks or cloth masks.
Since the Delta variant is more transmissible than earlier strains of the virus, cloth face masks will not be as helpful in fighting against the more contagious Delta variant, especially if you're unvaccinated. "We really need highly protective masks along with everything else," Marr said.
The nonwoven, meltblown polypropylene material used to make N95 masks are more effective at filtering out airborne particles. A properly fitted N95 mask are designed to create a tight seal on the face, which allows them to filter out at least 95 percent of airborne particulates. There should be no gaps between the edges of the mask and your face.
N95 masks can't be washed, so pay attention to the state of your mask. N95 masks can be worn up to 8 hours as long as it doesn't become soiled. You can air out your mask in the sun between uses, but if there's any visible signs of wear and tear, it's time to use a new one. Try not to touch the mask, and make sure you sanitize your hands frequently.
It's important to be vigilant of counterfeit respirators. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website with lists of N95 masks approved by NIOSH - The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the government agency that regulates masks.
According to a 3M technical bulletin published and revised in 2021, the Chinese manufactured KN95 mask is 'similar' to an N95 in its effectiveness, but they have not been approved by NIOSH. The Food and Drug Administration had authorized some KN95s for emergency use by health workers during the N95 shortage in the early stages of the pandemic. You can check that list to find authentic KN95 masks but Cappa said he would still recommend a NIOSH-approved N95.