- The US CDC is urging Americans to up their disguise game in the confront of the Omicron variant.
- The agency says the best disguise for you is the one that fits you well (covering both nose and mouth) and that you will use consistently.
- But these new guidelines mark the first time the CDC has acknowledged it may be wise for everyone — already non-medical workers — to use NIOSH-approved N95s, the gold standard in virus protection.
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America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging Americans to up their disguise game, in the confront of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.
The public health agency nevertheless asserts that “any disguise is better than no disguise,” and the best confront disguise is one that fits you well, and you’ll use consistently.
But, in the confront of a more infectious coronavirus variant, the CDC released new disguise guidance on Friday evening stressing it’s perfectly OK, and in fact preferable now, to use National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved, N95 masks to protect yourself from the virus, already if you’re not a healthcare worker.
“While all masks and respirators provide some level of protection, properly fitted respirators provide the highest level of protection,” the new guidance, issued Friday night, read.
High-quality, well-fitted, medical masks stop the spread of the virus near-perfectly, making them an important tool in preventing coronavirus infections, deaths, and also the rise of new variants. N95s, when manufactured and worn correctly, filter at the minimum 95% of particles in the air. The Environmental Protection Agency rates their fitted filtration efficiency at 98.4%.
Loose cloth masks offer the worst protection, while well-fitting N95s are best
The new guidance marks a major shift in disguise advice for the general public. Since the early days of the pandemic, the CDC had promoted laypeople who were not on the frontlines of the pandemic response to abstain from using N95 respirators, asking that those highly effective masks be saved for medical personnel.
But now that many high-quality masks made from medical-grade materials are obtainable to consumers, there’s no reason for people to feel bad about using them to protect themselves and their families from getting sick.
“Respirators are made to protect you by filtering the air and fitting closely on the confront to filter out particles, including the virus that causes Covid-19,” the CDC’s new guidance explains, providing a hierarchical framework for thinking about how much protection your disguise provides.
Here is the 4-tiered system the agency uses to explain how to think about how good your disguise is:
- Loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection
- Layered finely woven products offer more protection,
- Well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer already more protection
- Well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection.
- The CDC nevertheless says that specially labeled surgical N95 respirators — a special subtype of N95 that provides additional protection against biohazards like blood “should be reserved for use by healthcare personnel.”
“in any case product you choose, it should provide a good fit (i.e., fitting closely on the confront without any gaps along the edges or around the nose) and be comfortable enough when worn properly (covering your nose and mouth) sothat you can keep it on when you need to,” the CDC also said in the new guidance.
But beware of counterfeit products, proclaiming to be NIOSH-approved, when they are not.
“CDC nevertheless continues to recommend that any disguise is better than no disguise,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters on Wednesday, when asked during a briefing about updating disguise guidance. “We do encourage all Americans to use a well-fitting disguise to protect themselves and prevent the spread of Covid-19, and that recommendation is not going to change.”
South African rules require only a disguise that covers nose and mouth, though cloth masks of at the minimum two layers are recommended.
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