Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and other health professionals have emphasized the importance and necessity of wearing masks every day to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Given the transmissibility of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC
) and other experts acknowledge that N95
, KN95, or KF94
masks provide the greatest protection in public indoor spaces where reusable cloth masks were not previously recommended.
As N95 masks approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are no longer in short supply, the CDC recommends that individuals use N95 masks for personal use instead of cloth masks.
When approved by NIOSH, the N95 mask filters up to 95% of airborne particles and can be worn correctly. People should be aware, however, that approximately sixty percent of KN95 masks in the United States are counterfeit and do not meet NIOSH standards.
According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
N95 and KN95 masks were found to be 48% more effective than surgical or cloth masks.
Wearing a N95 or KN95 mask reduced the likelihood of a positive SARS-CoV-2 test by 83%. This is in comparison to 66 percent for surgical masks and 56 percent for cloth masks, which increases the need to replace these masks with N95 or KN95 masks for SARS-CoV-2 protection.
The AMA’s “What Doctors Want Patients to Know” series provides a forum for physicians to share what they want their patients to know about current healthcare news, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Edje noted that “Omicron is by far the most infectious variant. It is three times more infectious than the Delta variant and the second most contagious virus known to man, after measles.
“This is why N95 is recommended for public use,” she continued, noting that “N95 masks provide the highest level of protection because they prevent both large and small particles”
In addition, N95 masks are composed of layers of synthetic fibers known as polypropylene, and when worn as instructed, they prevent 95% of airborne particles from passing through.
K95 masks and KF94 masks also provide protection
Dr. Edje also mentioned that “the international brand N95 is certified as KN95 in China and KF94 in South Korea.” The KN95 and KF94 respirators block 94% of airborne particles.
She advised, however, to watch out for “masks with valves that make it easier for them to breathe.” This is due to the fact that “they do not filter the exhaled air of the wearer and are therefore not recommended.”
Ensure that the mask fully covers your face
Dr. Edje advises that all masks should cover the face from the bridge of the nose (where the glasses are) to just below the chin. “The wearer must be able to turn his or her head to either side and up and down without the mask’s edges separating.”
With the N95, “do not twist the ring to tighten the mask, as this creates gaps and reduces the mask’s effectiveness by approximately 60%,” she advised.