As COVID-19 cases surge across the country, health experts are urging people to wear masks, especially given the extremely contagious Omicron variant.
A number of states that had relaxed mask mandates have reinstated them in indoor public spaces. At the same time, some health experts are encouraging people, even those who are vaccinated, to wear masks that are more protective than cloth masks, including respirators like the N95 or KN95, a surgical mask, or double masking with a surgical mask under a cloth mask. Several European countries now require medical-grade masks in public settings.
“Now more than ever it is prudent to use face coverings and to select the appropriate protective gear that fits well and is effective in blocking transmission,” says Dr. Ole Vielemeyer, medical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “Fortunately, good-quality masks have once again become readily available for everybody, including surgical masks as well as KN95 and N95 respirators, and those are now the preferred way to stay protected when there is risk of transmission.”
But for a mask to be effective, it must be used correctly. Here, Dr. Vielemeyer shares with Health Matters what you need to know about wearing a face mask, from how to choose the right mask to how to put it on properly — tips he says you’ll need for the foreseeable future.
“Two years into the pandemic, it is still not over,” Dr. Vielemeyer says. “We will continue to need protection for ourselves and for others through several means, including the use of face masks. Thus, getting into a safe and sensible face mask routine is a good idea.”