Delta variant: What's the difference between cloth, N95 or KN95 masks? - The Cincinnati Enquirer
Mask-wearing for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people is recommended again by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, especially in areas where there is high spread of the delta variant of COVID-19.
The new variant is nearly twice as contagious as previous variants, and the greatest risk of transmission is among unvaccinated people who are much more likely to contract and transmit the virus.
The CDC recommends that any mask worn should fit snugly on the face, but which are the best masks to wear, and is there a difference in the level of protection? Here's what you need to know.
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With cloth masks, it's best to look for multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric and a nose wire. The mask should block light when held up to bright light source.
Cloth masks can be purchased just about anywhere, from Amazon to your favorite grocery store.
Do not wear a cloth mask if it has an exhalation valve or vent, or if it is a single layer or made of thin fabric that doesn't block light.
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Disposable masks, including surgical masks, should have multiple layers of non-woven material and a nose wire.
The CDC recommends they should not be worn if they have gaps around the sides of face or nose or are wet or dirty.
N95 vs. KN95 masks: What's the difference?
N95 masks meet U.S. standards for respirators, while KN95 masks are the Chinese standards for masks. Both types masks are rated to capture 95% of tiny particles, or about 0.3 micron particles.
At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, N95 masks were originally in high demand, but are now much easier and more available for purchase online or in home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe's.
What about double masking?
The CDC released research in February that said double-masking or wearing tightly fitted medical masks can reduce exposure to infectious aerosols up to 95%.
How to wear a double mask comfortably: A surgical mask should sit over your nose, mouth and under the chin with no gaps on either side. Layering with the second mask of cotton fabric will keep the first mask snugly in place and provide added protection.
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CDC's mask recommendations
- If you are not fully vaccinated and age 2 or older, you should wear a mask in indoor public places.
- In general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings.
- In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.
- People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may NOT be protected even if they are fully vaccinated. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.
- Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Travelers are not required to wear a mask in outdoor areas of a conveyance (like on open deck areas of a ferry or the uncovered top deck of a bus).