The Biden administration is strongly considering making higher quality masks such as N95 and KN95 masks more available.
“The cloth in these isn’t going to protect you as much as it will protect your neighbor. The N95s, if they’re rated, are going to protect you up to 95 percent of the small particulate that can come in your airway,” said Tenet Health Director of Cardio-Respiratory Services Stephen Szabo.
N95 and KN95 masks are the highest quality masks to be found and Santa Barbara County Public Health is pushing for more.
“Because of Omicron, we will be pushing this communication piece to our community. We need to update our masks, and because of Omicron, we need a new standard,” said Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso.
Getting a hand on the higher quality masks is a struggle in general brick and mortar stores.
“My husband and I live in Sacramento and we have been looking up there at all of our local stores and have not been able to find an N95 mask anywhere. I’m down here visiting now, and everybody is out of them,” said Sacramento resident Cathie Takata.
Ordering masks online has become the most reliable and timely option.
“We did some research and we wanted to find masks that are verified to be good, not counterfeit masks, and we ended up ordering online,” Takata said.
While it is preferred to wear these higher quality masks, the CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask of any kind instead of not wearing one at all.
“If you can tolerate an N95, do it. If you want to get a KN95, fine. What the CDC has said is wearing any mask is better than no mask at all,” said Chief Medical Advisor to the President, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“If you have access to them, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to wear it. Simple surgical masks that we use work great if worn properly,” Szabo said.
The N95 and KN95 masks may be superior, however, experts say people are safest when others around them are also wearing masks.