As the Covid-19 epidemic wears on, many medical experts are recommending the use of N-95 masks and not the cloth versions that became commonplace back in 2020.
Dr. Adrian Popp, head of the infectious diseases department at Huntington Hospital, said that, the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus is so much more transmissible than the Delta variant, and “this is what makes wearing a proper mask a lot more important. Cloth may have worked for delta but at a minimum.”
He said that there are three types of masks in use: cloth, which is just a single layer of material; surgical masks, made with three layers, and N-95, which are made of special materials that filter 95 percent of particulates. “Those are the most effective in terms of protecting you against transmitted droplets,” he said.
But they also require a careful fit to work effectively. “The N-95s do come in different sizes,: he said, describing the care medical staffers take to make sure they fit correctly. The fit “varies for people and we test them in hospitals. In the real world, with lay people in the community, you can’t test people that way but you can try to fit it properly. That means you have a full seal and that’s maximum protection.”
The full seal that makes the mask a better choice can also mean it’s harder to wear over long periods of time. “If you put a 100 percent well-fitted mask, what happens after a while is it gets a little humid and it irritates your face. Some people may feel a little claustrophobic,” Popp said. He suggested one option might be to wear an N-95 mask to a social event while it is crowded, but when going elsewhere, to switch to another type to continue protection.
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that N-95 masks offer far better protection over the cloth, if worn properly.