As mask mandate returns, so do the questions about what masks are most effective
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) --As the mask mandate is reenacted across Oregon Oregon, the questions of how well various masks protect against the more contagious delta variant are being asked.
Dr. Rebecca Hicks, a pediatrician with Mosaic Medical, said the way to make any mask effective is by making sure it fits the face well.
“Not only is the makeup of the mask important, but how well it fits your face is really important," Hicks said Tuesday.
N95s, surgical and cloth masks are the most-used masks. and although N95s offer the best protection, they can be hard to come by.
They are also recommended to be used for health care workers.
"A standard N95 is really intended to be used one time. Now, when we have a shortage of these things, sometimes we use them more than once -- and this has turned out to be okay and probably a good decision for somebody that doesn't have N95 available," Hicks said.
Reusable versions are also available.
"The benefit of a reusable one is that you can completely wipe it down and clean it off, and change the filter when you need to," Hicks said.
While cloth masks provide the least amount of protection, Dr. Hicks said people find them more comfortable.
Betty Block, a professor visiting downtown Bend, said she found a way to personalize some of her masks, making them more pleasant to wear, with certain masks carrying special memories.
"My research team came to my house, and as a thank you gift, gave me a beautiful hand embroidered mask with a seam that goes down the middle and it’s so comfortable to wear," Block said.
St. Charles Health System President and CEO Joe Sluka recently provided this mask guidance:
N95s offer the best protection against COVID-19 and the Delta variant, but please be aware: The Centers for Disease Control says health care workers and others who work in hazardous conditions should have prioritized access to them.
KN95s are your next best option. They provide the same level of filtration as N95s but are certified differently. If you buy some, look to see if they meet requirements set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH).
Surgical masks are easier to acquire, more comfortable and more affordable. However, they are also harder to fit properly, which can lead to gaps between the mask and your face. With the Delta variant now dominant in Central Oregon, a well-fitted mask is more important than ever, so look for masks with adjustable cords, ear loops and nose wires to help improve fit.
The effectiveness of cloth masks depends on how porous the fabric is. Look for cloth masks made of multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric. One way to test a mask is by holding it up to a light source and seeing if the mask blocks the light. You can also double up with a cloth mask over a surgical mask for extra protection.
If you’d like to dig deeper into the different types of masks and their effectiveness, please be sure to seek out a credible source. Here’s a great page of information courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.