As cases of the omicron variant skyrocket across the country, health officials say receiving a booster shot and COVID-19 offer the best protection, but wearing a mask is also crucial to limiting the spread of the virus. .
While face masks have become part of the country’s landscape in the past two years, health officials say that because the omicron variant is more contagious, a reusable cloth mask may not be the best option.
In a question and answer session, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady emphasized that “everyone who wears a mask is the most important thing.”
“The biggest leap in protection is from no mask to any mask,” he said.
KN95 masks, the most widely available high-filtration masks, offer better protection than cloth masks, Arwady noted. The masks are “good to wear” when available, he said, but they signify the importance of the general use of the masks.
“Whenever you feel comfortable having one of these, wear one,” he said. “It has a higher level of protection.”
The CDPH health commissioner said that while he owns KN95 masks, he does not regularly wear one and can only do so in certain settings that involve large crowds.
“When I’ve put them on, it could be like saying I have to go through an airport or something. There will be a lot of exposure,” he said. “… It is not the one I choose for daily use. I am vaccinated, reinforced, etc.”
KN95 masks, as well as N95 masks, filter at least 95% of airborne particles, but N95 masks have more stringent pressure drop requirements and are commonly considered the “gold standard” for masking.
N95s are specifically reserved for healthcare workers and with a current shortage they are only recommended in such settings.
According to a Nebraska Medicine article, mask materials that have high filtration efficiency in theory work best to combat omicron build-up, but fit is especially important.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, says she does not believe the United States has reached the peak of the omicron coronavirus wave affecting the country.
Several studies have found that a multilayer fabric mask can have an effective filtration efficiency that is as high as KN95 or other high filtration masks, according to the article.
Arwady previously said that while the double mask is a good way to provide “excellent protection,” he also emphasized the importance of having a properly fitting mask.
“If it has holes, it is possible that droplets will come out. We have recommended wearing one of the surgical masks with a cloth mask on top, ”he said. “That is a good way to have excellent protection. If you are using KN95 and KN94, please do so. ”