Getting a mask when walking out the door is now as common as taking your keys, wallet and cell phone. Now that we’re over a year and a half into the pandemic, we probably all have our favorite masks or masks, but what’s the difference between masks and which is best?

We spoke with Graham McKeen, assistant superintendent of schools for public health and the environment at Indiana University, to help us sort through the latest information on mask wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic. happenning.

Question: What are the current recommendations for mask wearing?

Answer: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends wearing a mask in public indoor spaces if you are not fully vaccinated. Additionally, in communities with high or significant transmission potential, which at this point is essentially the entire United States, CDC recommends that fully immunized individuals also cover their faces when in public. home. And, masks continue to be required on all public transport, including airplanes and city buses.

Q: Do all of these masks work?

ONE: It’s correct. There are already many studies, especially in school settings, showing that universal mask wearing reduces COVID-19 transmission. The CDC reports that K-12 schools that don’t have a mask requirement are three times more likely to have a COVID-19 outbreak than those that begin the school year with general mask wearing.

Q: What kind of mask is best?

ONE: Honestly, the best mask is the one that best fits your face and that you will wear properly. The effective mask will completely cover the mouth, nose and under the chin. It should fit snugly against the edges of your face and have a noseband to help provide a better fit, so that air doesn’t get out of your mask.

Q: It seems there are millions of masks on the market today. What’s the difference?

ONE: There are actually five main types of masks that we are seeing today.

  • Cloth mask simply what they say – a mask made of cloth. To be effective, they should have at least two layers of breathable, washable fabric. Cloth masks can be traditional masks with loops wrapped around your ears or they can be a scarf that goes around your neck and pulls up over your nose and mouth. This type of mask can be washed and reused.
  • Surgical mask Single use and regulated by the FDA. These masks not only help block your respiratory droplets from getting into the air, but they also protect you from large particles that can contain viruses. You may have seen these masks in the doctor’s office.
  • KF94 / KN95 . Mask Upgrading the filter of the surgical mask one notch, closer to what you see with an N95 mask. KF means “Korean filter” and 94 means 94 percent filter. The KN95 mask is similar and originated in China with 95% filtration. Both are disposable and combine the increased filtering capacity of an N95 respirator with the design and fit of a cloth mask. They need to fit snugly to increase filterability and have a noseband to help with a snug fit.
  • N95 mask are sometimes called N95 respirators and are meant to have a very tight and specific fit on the face to filter out small airborne particles. N95 respirators, to be used properly, need to be fit tested to ensure a good fit and are commonly used in healthcare settings. Right now, you’re more likely to see healthcare workers wearing these in ICUs and other units where they directly care for people with COVID-19. You usually don’t see these among the general public due to specific matching needs.
  • Mask usually has a band around the head and a clear plastic visor that pulls down in front of you. Research is still unclear about the effectiveness of face coverings in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and is generally discouraged. However, a face shield may be combined with an N95 respirator in certain healthcare settings for additional protection.

Q: Will continuing to wear masks help end the pandemic?

ONE: Masking is a simple yet important tool in our toolbox to combat community spread of COVID-19. A single precaution will not get us to the bottom of this pandemic. Vaccinations continue to be the single most important thing we can all do to help ourselves and our communities. Also, masking, taking advantage of social distancing, getting tested if you have any symptoms, and proper isolation and isolation will help end the pandemic when we combine all of these. together.

Above all, it’s about public health, and it’s about empathy and respect for each other and our community.

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