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What to know about N95 and KN95 masks

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What to know about N95 and KN95 masks

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask guidelines for the general public on Friday, now saying people “can choose” to wear N95 and KN95 masks because they offer the best protection against Covid-19.

But the agency refrained from saying that people should opt for some masks over others, saying that “the CDC continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask possible that fits you well and that you will wear coherently”.

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Previously, the CDC did not recommend that the general population wear N95 or KN95 masks, a similar type of mask made in China, fearing that a race for these higher-quality masks could impact supply in medical centers. health care institutions. The CDC now says shortages are no longer an issue.

“When worn consistently and correctly,” the agency wrote on its website, N95 respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, “provide the highest level of protection against particles, including the virus that causes Covid-19.”

Some public health experts have said the guidelines are long overdue and don’t go far enough.

“We really need to take it a step further and say this is the standard we should be aiming for,” said Dr. Ranu Dhillon, a global health physician at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

He said it should be easy for most people to find comfortable “N95 caliber” masks so they can wear them in high-risk indoor environments, such as crowded shops and hospitals.

“The CDC should have come out on top of this two years ago,” he said. “The science was clear two years ago.”

Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University College of Public Health in Ohio, said while the CDC’s guidance is welcome, she’s concerned about how people who need high-tech masks quality such as the N95 would have access to.

“Is there a plan to distribute them, especially for people who can’t afford them or can’t easily find them? I was hoping it would be done earlier this year, but still nothing. “, she wrote in an e-mail. “Recommendations are great, but without access, especially for those most at risk, it’s not enough.”

On Thursday, President Joe Biden said his administration plans to make “high-quality” masks available to the public free of charge, but declined to provide details.

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The CDC said in its updated guidelines that it “continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask possible that fits you well and that you will wear consistently.”

A mask should fit close to the face without any gaps and be comfortable enough to wear for long periods when needed, he said.

The agency did, however, offer a ranking of commonly used face coverings in order of highest to lowest protection, with NIOSH-approved N95s and KN95s leading the way.

Disposable surgical masks were next on the list, but the CDC advised making sure they fit properly. The agency now recommends double masks in this scenario: Wearing a cloth mask over a disposable surgical mask can help it fit more tightly to the face.

“Loosely woven fabric products offer the least protection,” the CDC said. Cloth masks should consist of multiple layers of tightly woven fabric. The fabric should block light when held in front of a bright light source.

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What to know about N95 and KN95 masks

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