Your questions answered about differences, effectiveness of N95, K95, surgical and cloth masks

N95 masks offer the best protection, but any mask is better than no mask

It may seem like fewer people are wearing masks and less often, but health experts say they can be an effective way to help stop the spread of COVID-19 if they’re worn correctly.

“We know that masks at this point are a very important tool to help prevent transmission of COVID-19 in addition to hand hygiene and physical distancing,” said University Health Epidemiologist Dr. Jason Bowling.

Recently, U.S. health officials said Americans should wear N95 or KN95 masks like the ones used by health care workers to slow the spread of the coronavirus instead of cloth masks, which are less effective. But, the CDC still says any mask is better than no mask.

They have to be worn regularly, so it’s really important that when you’re going out, in addition to remembering your phone and your keys to remember to take your mask with you,” said Bowling.

Bowling answered some frequently asked questions about the effectiveness of different kinds of masks. Watch the video in the player at the top of this article for answers to the following questions:

  • How are masks an important part of controlling the spread of COVID-19?
  • Can you give us a quick review of mask etiquette?
  • What is an N95 vs a KN95?
  • How can I be sure I’m not getting a fake mask?
  • Should I wear an N95 to go about my daily business?
  • Do surgical masks work?
  • Do cloth masks still work to prevent the spread of Omicron?
  • Do masks with valves work?

More on masks:

N95s have a tighter fit to your face than cloth masks and are made with a special material designed to block 95% of harmful particles. The fibers are pressed closer together than in cloth masks and have an electrostatic charge that attracts molecules to stick to the mask rather than passing through.

The CDC has warned there are a lot of counterfeit masks on the market.

You can check the authenticity of your N95 mask on the CDC’s alphabetical list of NIOSH-approved respirators or by checking the TC approval number on the certified equipment list. For KN95 masks, use this FDA list to find KN95 masks made in China, and this list for KN95 masks made in other countries.

The Biden administration is making 400 million N95 masks available for free to U.S. residents. Click here for information about where to get them from pharmacies and community health centers in San Antonio.

Can you reuse a N95 or KN95 mask? The short answer is, according to health experts — yes, you can reuse them if you take some precautions. You can read more about how to do it properly here.

Your next best option to an N95 mask is a disposable surgical mask. Those are meant for one-time-only use and should be disposed of properly after each wearing.

If you only have a cloth mask, it’s recommended that you wash it after every use.

Click here for information on the different kinds of masks from the FDA.

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About the Author:

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 20 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.