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Here’s who best protects against COVID-19 – NBC Chicago

As the omicron variant spreads rapidly in the United States, health officials argue that booster vaccinations and the COVID-19 vaccine are crucial to curbing the spread of the virus, but wearing a face mask is also strongly recommended.

The Centers for Disease Control updated masking guidelines on Friday, saying N95 and KN95 masks offer the best protection against COVID-19 and people “may choose” to wear them.

Previously, the CDC did not recommend that the general population wear N95 or KN95 masks, a similar type of mask made in China, over concerns that demand could impact supply in health care settings.

In its Friday update, the CDC said shortages were no longer an issue.

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

How to know if a KN95 mask is legitimate? Here’s how the CDC says you can spot the difference.

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

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

Speaking last week, Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, stressed that “everyone wearing a mask is the most important thing.”

“The biggest leap in protection is going from no mask to any mask,” she said during a Q&A.

Arwady said at the time that KN95 masks are “good to use” when available, she said, but stressed the importance of overall mask use.

“As long as you feel comfortable wearing one, wear one,” she said. “He has a higher level of protection.”

KN95 masks, along with N95s, filter at least 95% of air particles, but N95 masks have more stringent pressure drop requirements and are regularly considered the “gold standard” for masking.

N95s are specifically for healthcare workers and were originally only recommended in such settings.

According to an article in Nebraska Medicine, mask materials that theoretically have high filtering efficiency work best to combat omicron push, but fit is especially important.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says she doesn’t believe the United States has peaked in the wave of the omicron coronavirus affecting the country.

Several studies have shown that a multi-layer fabric mask can have just as high effective filtration efficiency as KN95s or other high filtration masks, according to the article.

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 N95s approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and KN95s leading the way.

Disposable surgical masks were next on the list, but the CDC advised making sure they fit properly. Loosely woven fabric products offer the least protection, according to agency officials.

NBC Chicago

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