CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Any mask is better than no mask, but some masks are better than others, federal health officials said. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its masking guidance, encouraging people to use the best quality masks they can get their hands on, even if that means using an N95 or KN95 respirator.
Previously, low supplies of these higher quality masks led officials to recommend saving them for healthcare workers, but with better supplies and a more contagious variant circulating, guidance changed.
According to the new CDC guidance, N95 and KN95 respirators, when fitted snugly on the face can filter out viral particles before the wearer inhales them.
The CDC now recommends these masks for high-risk settings and individuals, like immunocompromised people, caretakers for someone with a known COVID-19 infection, those in crowded indoor and outdoor settings, people using public transportation, like a bus or plane, and those working in high-contact settings, like grocery stores.
The CDC states that the more traditional masks, which are either made of cloth or are the disposable surgical style work better at catching the wearer's own respiratory droplets rather than filtering out others' viral particles.
While those masks could be better suited for lower risk situations, the CDC states that they can be doubled up, cloth over surgical, for more protection.
According to the CDC, whatever mask the wearer chooses should cover the nose, mouth, and chin, and should not create any gaps with the face.
The agency states, "It is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask."