Sheet mask not protective enough against Omicron: Expert

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“Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There is no place for them in Omicron’s light,” Wen told CNN on Monday. “Wear a high quality mask, at least a three-layer surgical mask.”

TBS Report

December 26, 2021, 10:55 a.m.

Last modification: December 26, 2021, 10:57 AM

Once again, it is essential to follow all the Covid-19 health instructions, including wearing a mask. Photo: Saikat Bhadra / TBS

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Once again, it is essential to follow all the Covid-19 health instructions, including wearing a mask. Photo: Saikat Bhadra / TBS

Cloth masks won’t do much in the fight against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, said CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

Since the early days of the pandemic, we’ve learned that not all masks are created equal. The ability of a face mask to block the spread of viral particles depends on how it fits your face, as well as the number and material of its layers, Insider reports.

“Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There is no place for them in Omicron’s light,” Wen told CNN on Monday. “Wear a high quality mask, at least a three-layer surgical mask.”

While cloth masks seemed like a good idea in 2020, they’re not particularly useful in areas with high viral transmission, studies show. A September 2020 review found that fabric masks may be beneficial in preventing transmission in low-risk public facilities, but offer limited protection in healthcare facilities.

Since Omicron is more transmissible than previous variants and is now the dominant variant in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people should take more precautions to avoid the coronavirus. It means masking smarter, Wen said.

Watch out for counterfeit medical masks

Authentic, lab-tested N95 masks – or their Chinese and Korean counterparts (KN95 and KF94, respectively) – are the most effective masks at filtering out viral particles. The number indicates that the masks filter out about 95% of aerosol-sized particles.

In comparison, a surgical mask rated ASTM level 2 or 3 can filter at least 50% of the expired droplets that can carry the coronavirus. The downside of surgical masks is that they do not fit all face sizes, but adding a fabric mask or mask splint over a medical grade mask can combine the benefits of ‘a good fit and good filtration.

N95 masks and other medical masks are preferred over cloth masks because they have been tested to meet a certain level of protection. Keep in mind that counterfeit masks do not meet this standard.

The CDC has a running list of common counterfeit respirators that have not been approved in the United States.


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