Which masks work best against the omicron variant?

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) – Medical experts urge people to get the COVID-19 vaccine and a booster to best protect against the more easily spread omicron variant, but they also stress the importance of wearing the correct one mask during this last wave.

A simple fabric mask – no matter how cute the fabric is – won’t cut it anymore, according to Dr Erica Swegler of Austin, TX. However, the Village Medical family doctor said a fabric mask with an added filter would be best if there were no other options available to someone.

Dr Swegler said a sheet mask had become more obsolete in terms of protecting someone long before the emergence of omicron in the United States.

“The delta variant had somehow managed to escape this [cloth mask] barrier well enough, and it’s just not enough, ”said Dr. Swegler. “In a way, [the virus] is able to penetrate through a plain cloth mask.

Instead, she shared a list of the three types of masks people should be looking for and wearing right now, starting with the most protective option.


Dr Erica Swegler held up the N95 mask from her clinic in central Austin. (KXAN Photo / Will DuPree)

Dr Swegler said the N95 mask was his first choice for protecting people from the delta and omicron variants. She called it the “absolute best mask” because its two straps go around the head and provide a very tight fit to the face.

“The key is you want something that fits your face perfectly and doesn’t leave any holes,” she said.

However, she noted that an N95 mask could be more expensive and harder for people to find, so the next best option would be the KN95.


The KN95 mask differs from the N95 in that its straps wrap just around the ears, although Dr Swegler pointed out that it still fits snugly over the face.

“If you were maybe on a plane, I would absolutely recommend a KN95, which has a nosepiece that can really go down over the nose and fits really well,” she explained.

In addition to their fit on someone’s face, Dr Swegler said the material the KN95 and N95 are made from along with the built-in filtration make them the most recommended masking options.

“The N95 is absolutely the best, the KN95 the second,” she said, “and then a surgical mask, which is relatively inexpensive and much easier to obtain, is the next best choice.”

A registered nurse stands in line and looks to purchase KN95 face masks outside of Masataco, a taco shop in Whittier, Calif., On Tuesday, April 7, 2020 (AP Photo / Damian Dovarganes)

Disposable surgical mask

While not ranked as high on his list, Dr Swegler said disposable surgical masks remain a much more preferred option than a simple cloth mask to protect people now against COVID-19.

“It really comes down to what we call the Swiss cheese model,” she said. “We need several barriers in place, which include not only the vaccine first and foremost, but the proper mask and consistently wearing it over your nose, your mouth – not like a chin strap or something like that. Also, go a good distance and really limit indoor exposure at this point to small groups, especially if you are not clear on everyone’s immunization status. “

Coronavirus pandemic. Antiviral medical mask for protection against influenza illnesses. Surgical mask. (Getty)

While Dr Swegler supports the idea that students wear masks when they return to class after the holidays, she suggested that children should at a minimum wear a disposable surgical mask when they return to school during the wave. omicron in progress.

“You don’t know if there is a child in the class who might be immunocompromised, or you may or may not know if someone is undergoing chemotherapy and if they need to be in class with you,” Dr Swegler said. . “There are vulnerable individuals, and it’s up to us as a society to step forward and protect vulnerable individuals. “

Dr Swegler said people with symptoms of COVID-19 or those trying to rule out a case make up about half of the patients his clinic currently sees. She also said that around 50% of the tests done by her clinic come back positive, so she urges the community to take all possible precautions so as not to catch COVID-19 or pass it on to others, which includes wearing the drug. ‘a mask as effective protection.

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