01 FEB 2022

Best Masks for COVID Protection

Man with short-cropped, black hair outside facing the camera while placing a N95 mask on.
When worn properly, the best masks are some version of N95 and designed to filter out at least 95% of particulate matter.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its mask guidelines to recommend that people "wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently."

The agency describes well-fitting respirators approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) - such as N95 masks - as offering "the highest level of protection."

N95 masks and their international counterparts known as KN95s and KF94s are often made of multiple layers of polypropylene, a synthetic fiber. They are designed to achieve a very snug facial fit, with straps that go around the back of the head and edges that form a tight seal around the nose and mouth.

"When worn properly, the best masks are some version of N95 and designed to filter out at least 95 percent of particulate matter – including droplets or aerosols that contain infectious virus." says NorthBay Healthcare Medical Director Seth Kaufman, MD. "

KN95s and KF94s are certified in China and South Korea, respectively, and offer similar protection to N95 masks. KF stands for "Korean filter" and indicates 94 percent filtration.

How to Spot Fake Masks

How do you know you are getting a real N95, KN95 or KF94 mask? The CDC has a list of signs that indicate a KN95 respirator might be counterfeit. KN95 masks are supposed to be stamped with both the company name and the respirator standard number – masks produced as of July 1, 2021, bear the standard number GB2626-2019; masks produced before that date have the standard number GB2626-2006. If your KN95 is missing those things, be weary.

If you want a South Korean KF94 respirator, you can try reputable online shops like Be HealthyUSA and Kollecte USA.

More information from NorthBay regarding COVID-19 can be found on our COVID-19 resources page. Still need a vaccine or booster? You can schedule your vaccine through MyTurn.

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