More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Omicron and its subvariants have emerged as the country’s most contagious, dethroning Delta in the process. Just as the number of COVID cases were dropping to their lowest levels in more than 6 months, infections of Omicron began to spike in the spring of 2022, causing some counties and cities to mandate mask wearing once again.
To slow the spread, the CCD continues to recommend that anyone living in a community with a “high” level of COVID-19 should wear a mask indoors, even if they’ve been vaccinated. If your community has a “medium” risk, it’s recommended that you wear a mask if you’re immunocompromised or if you live with someone who’s immunocompromised. If your community has a “low” risk, you can wear a mask if you want to, though it may not be necessary. You can check your county’s COVID-19 levels on the CDC’s county map.
Even if your community doesn’t have high rates of COVID-19, you may want to wear a mask if you’re indoors — or even if you’re outside in a crowded area — to reduce your odds of catching the virus, says Ravina Kullar, PharmD, MPH, spokesperson for the Infectious Disease Society of America.
The CDC still recommends people wear masks on public transportation, although that order is no longer mandatory.
Not all masks are created equal, though. N95 masks that have been approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) may offer the highest levels of protection, according to the CDC, but KN95s can be more protective than layered finely woven masks and loosely woven cloth masks.
What’s the difference between N95 and KN95 masks? Both masks filter out 95 percent of airborne particles (hence, the 95 in its name) But the N95 mask has been approved to meet U.S. standards for demonstrating its efficiency, whereas the KN95 mask has been approved to meet China’s standards for demonstrating its efficiency.
The problem, though, is that some KN95s are counterfeit. According to the CDC, about 60 percent of the KN95 masks that were evaluated by NIOSH in 2020 and 2021 didn’t meet the requirements they were supposed to, so always do your research before putting up the money.
When N95 masks were in short supply at the start of the pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out a list of KN95 masks that were authorized for emergency use for medical professionals. But as the supply of masks increased, the FDA revoked these emergency authorizations for healthcare workers in the summer of 2021, and the agency no longer updates the list. (Still, knowing the manufacturers that were formerly approved for use may give you a good idea of which brands to consider buying.)
Don’t like the fit or feel of an N95? Then your best bet may be a KN95. After all, the best mask for you is the one you’ll actually wear — and wear correctly.
“A mask is only as good as its fit,” says Dr. Kullar.
Whichever one you choose, make sure it fits securely around your nose, mouth, and chin — there shouldn’t be any gaps around the edges. Here, we’ve rounded up a list of the best KN95 masks for Covid protection.
There’s no scientific evidence to prove that wearing a colorful mask makes it more effective at preventing you from coming down with Covid-19, but it certainly can’t hurt. We love the navy option here.
KN95 Adjustable Face Mask
No matter what type of mask you’re wearing, one common downside is the fact that the elastic earloops eventually stretch out (or create an added pain behind your ears to start). Luckily, you can get yourself a set of KN95 masks with adjustable earloops to customize the fit and get more wear out of each one.
FDA Listed Adult Mask with KN95 Protection, 10-Pack
Vida’s masks, which are made in an FDA-registered facility, feature KN95 protection but also an environmentally friendly factor. With every order, the brand will send a prepaid shipping label to return used masks for recycling. Good for you, and the environment—’nuff said. Plus, it comes in a variety of colors to suit your everyday style.
3D KN95 Mask With Adjustable Ear Loops
Maybe you prefer the fit of a 3D style mask—in which case, this wellbefore option (with adjustable earloops for comfort and the right fit) is for you.
KN95 Respirator, 50 Pieces
For those of you who want to buy your KN95 masks in bulk, consider this 50-pack from BYD Care. One box is sure to keep you equipped and protected for a solid while.
Cristina Montemayor is a freelance writer and journalist living in Austin, Texas, covering beauty, grooming, style, and culture.
Maria Masters is a contributing editor and writer for Everyday Health and What to Expect, and has held positions at Men’s Health and Family Circle.
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