The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) again overhauled its mask guidance this week, requiring all Americans to return to wearing masks in public spaces indoors and out. outdoor crowded areas, regardless of vaccination status.

The agency’s new mask recommendations come as the Delta strain of COVID-19 continues to spread, leading to an increase in new coronavirus cases across the United States. And because the vaccine is still being tested for children under the age of 12, CDC officials are also updating guidance to require all students in grades K-12 to wear a mask to school this fall.

The Delta variant is more contagious than other forms of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the spread of COVID-19. People infected with this strain of the virus can carry 1,000 times more airborne particles of the virus in their airways than people infected with earlier versions, according to emerging data. While vaccines prevent almost all of the deadly symptoms associated with COVID-19, CDC officials also recently admitted that vaccinated people can actually pass the disease on to those around them.

“The best recommendation is, regardless of immunization status, to continue to wear a mask to protect your loved ones and yourself from COVID as an additional layer of protection,” says Vivek Cherian, MD, an internist. associated with the University of Maryland explains Systems of Medicine.

But if you’re still wearing those old masks that you rushed to buy (or even sewed yourself) during the early months of the pandemic, it’s important to know these masks offer less protection. compared to other options available.

What is the best mask to protect against Delta variation?

Cloth masks manufactured in the first half of 2020 weren’t designed as rigorously as they are now, and it’s not until late 2020 and early 2021 that CDC officials begin to issue more stringent mask recommendations for Americans (as in January, when officials asked Americans to consider double-face covering). While a cloth mask is certainly better than no mask at all when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19, the fit and texture of a medical-grade surgical mask is generally more comprehensive – and now, they are always available to consumers.

Good House Management Institute Textile Director Lexie Sachs says that surgical masks are typically made by PPE manufacturers that adhere to strict quality standards that were in place long before the pandemic broke out. Sachs adds: “We know they are generally safer in terms of filtration and fit, as opposed to cloth masks made by fashion retailers, who often don’t adhere to medical standards in the industry. build. “They’re also generally more breathable.”

Most importantly, you can rest assured that the medical grade surgical mask you are wearing has been tested to meet the standards set by International ASTM, an industry group responsible for setting minimum safety levels for many products, including face masks. “You’ll know if it’s been tested to meet standards – in this case, ASTM Level 3 and beyond – instead of blindly guessing with most fabric options,” says Sachs. more.

There are also N95 and KN95 respirators, aka respirators, known for providing better protection than surgical masks. Why? Because they are carefully designed to prevent large and small airborne particles from entering especially the front of the mask. Mayo Clinic officials clarified that while surgical masks can indeed provide equal or superior filtration to cloth masks, they are primarily designed to block liquids and aerosols. exposure to the wearer in a clinical setting – Not particles or aerosols.

Although N95 and KN95 masks were largely out of stock at the start of the pandemic – and officials at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still consider PPE supplies low in the critical categories. like respirators – there are more respirators available now than at the start of the outbreak.

In fact, Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner, recently advised Americans to consider wearing an N95 or KN95 mask, sourced from China, for the best protection from COVID-19 exposure in public places. add. “If you’re considering wearing a mask, it’s the quality of the mask that matters,” Gottlieb told CBS reporters. “So if you can use a KN95 mask or an N95 mask, that gives you more protection.”

“There’s no question that [respirators] provide the best protection as they fit more snugly and also provide high filtration if you maybe “Dr. Cherian explained” to protect those masks. “However, cloth masks are still an effective option [if you can’t find a respirator]. “

surgical mask

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Which mask is best for my child to wear?

Since the N95 is classified as a respirator, you will need a snug fit over your nose and mouth to ensure proper effectiveness and filtration. Charles CJ Bailey, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Providence Mission Hospital in California.

Because of their suitability, Dr. Bailey and other experts warn children to use N95 or KN95. Masks can be much more difficult to breathe than medical or cloth masks, which is especially difficult for children in active environments or when physically active. Surgical masks are more suitable for children, especially those with breathing problems or those who are particularly active, rather than N95 or KN95 masks that do not fit well.

Dr Bailey added that wearing a perfectly fitted N95 or KN95 mask for children would be an impractical challenge, and that wearing an ill-fitting mask would not provide any additional protection compared to other mask options (this goes for adults too!). Remember: CDC officials still recommend that any children under At this time two years old should not wear all types of masks, including children with pre-existing respiratory conditions that make masks potentially harmful.

How can I purchase the best masks in the future?

If you’re still using the same cloth masks you bought in 2020, it might be time to consider exchanging them for a respirator or surgical mask – or at least a newer fabric mask. , said Sachs. “The shelf life of cloth masks is often based on washes, and brands that conform to ASTM standards should inform customers of this information,” she added.

New ASTM International Standard – referred to as ASTM F3502, will be displayed by manufacturers who have designed and tested their products to meet these quality standards – designed to give designers and lifestyle brands extra definition. direction in making non-PPE fabric masks safer. These standards ensure masks will fit snugly over your nose and mouth, can effectively filter airborne particles, and are reasonably breathable for consumers, among other concerns. The Unicorn breathing mask is an example of a fabric mask that claims to have been tested and manufactured to ASTM standards – you’ll see clear language that says this on the brand’s digital storefront.

Manufacturers are gradually adapting the way they manufacture masks so that they can meet the standards set by ASTM; if your favorite mask doesn’t show any ASTM F3502 classification yet, It is possible that the mask is not protective enough to qualify, Sachs explained.

It’s best to buy a new mask instead of trying to fix a torn or stretched mask. And if anything is clear, investing in properly crafted masks will pay off in the end – it looks like these current CDC guidelines will be in place until all children eligible for the vaccine and possibly until a majority of Americans choose to apply for the vaccine.

Updated, February 8, 2021: This article has been updated to include responsive fabric masks ASTM F3502, a recently developed set of standards highlighted above. Originally the post marked a mask that responded ASTM F2100, a standard used in the production of medical masks.

As more information about the coronavirus pandemic develops, some of the information in this story may have changed since it was last updated. For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, please visit online resources provided by the CDC, WHO, and your local public health department.

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