The CDC updated their guidance Friday and acknowledged for the first time that cloth masks provide the least protection against COVID-19, while N95s provide the most protection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday updated their public guidance on masks, saying the updates “reflect the science on masking, including what we have learned in the past two years.”
“Masking is a critical public health tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask,” the CDC said in a statement.
The new guidance says that layered finely woven masks and disposable surgical masks offer more protection than loosely woven cloth masks, but not as much as NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) approved respirators like N95s.
“A respirator has better filtration, and if worn properly the whole time it is in use, can provide a higher level of protection than a cloth or procedural mask,” the CDC said.
“A respirator may be considered in certain situations and by certain people when greater protection is needed or desired,” the CDC added.
Those certain situations include workers who interact with a large number of people, like bus drivers and grocery store employees, when not everyone is consistently wearing a mask.
The CDC also recommends considering N95s when riding on public transportation, especially if it is for a long period of time in crowded places.
N95s are designed to filter at least 95 percent of particles in the air when properly fitted.
Respirators have markings printed on them to indicate they are authentic, the CDC says.
“Surgical” N95 respirators, which provide additional protection against hazards during medical procedures like blood, should be reserved for healthcare personnel.
The CDC stressed the importance of wearing a well-fitted mask and continues to recommend wearing the “most protective mask that one would wear consistently.”
“A mask or respirator will be less effective if it fits poorly or if you wear it improperly or take it off frequently,” the CDC said.