Here are the CDC mask guidelines for Omicron

Late Friday, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) updated its guide to COVID masks and respirators, highlighting the fact that N95 and KN95 are more effective against spreading the virus when worn properly. This comes during a multi-week increase in cases in the US, due to a highly contagious variant of Omicron.

The agency’s website now states: “While all masks and respirators provide a certain level of protection, properly fitted respirators provide the highest level of protection. Wearing a high-protection mask or respirator may be most important for certain high-risk situations or for some people at increased risk of serious illness. ”

The site also notes: “Some masks and respirators offer a higher level of protection than others, and some are harder to bear or consistently wear than others. The most important thing is to wear a mask or respirator that is comfortable and provides good protection. ”

The N95 and KN95 masks – also known as respirators – were quickly identified as the safest face masks at the start of the pandemic, followed by surgical and canvas masks. For the first many months, health officials asked citizens to use canvas masks without valves, due to limited supplies for front-line workers and the seriously ill. But now, due to increased production and availability, the CDC has removed the mention of supply shortages from its website.

N95, KN95, and surgical masks are made of multilayer propylene plastic, which is better than cotton and other woven fabrics in filtering small aerosol particles that carry the coronavirus through the air. The N95 and KN95 designs must meet high health standards both in the US and abroad. There are other types of industrial but less common respirators that provide protection against viruses; The CDC has a complete list on its website.

[Related: The ultimate guide to reusing and buying N95 masks]

Changes were expected by several experts earlier in the week. At a news conference Wednesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky commented on whether the U.S. government will be able to make the N95 and other high-quality masks more affordable in light of Omicron’s recent rise. The CDC “still recommends that any mask is better than no mask at all. And we encourage all Americans to wear a mask that fits well to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19, and that recommendation will not change, ”she said. Walensky added that the updated information on the CDC website will serve as a guide to the “different levels of protection that different masks provide. And we want to give Americans the best and most up-to-date information to choose which mask is right for them. ”

For those wondering how to interpret recent changes, if you live, work or travel in environments with a high risk of exposure to COVID, you may need to upgrade to a respirator. Just keep in mind that they they are disposable, so the longer you wear them, the less effective they will be. As the CDC repeatedly mentions on its website, comfortable grip is also important – perhaps more than the type of mask. Be careful with fake N95 masks as well: this detailed diagram can help you distinguish the real model from the counterfeit.

CDC and NIOSH

Since most respirators are adult-sized, they may not be suitable for children, especially those under 3 years of age. The CDC also cites a transparent mask approved by the FDA for people with disabilities and those who live or work with them on a regular basis.

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