Looking for a medical grade mask? You may have to look online

Coronavirus Local Impact

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – With the current COVID-19 Omicron variant surge and the Delta variant, some public health officials are recommending better masks.

A new study from the University of Central Florida showed that a cloth mask reduced the distance airborne droplets can travel to about two feet compared to four feet without a mask, with a surgical mask it was only about half a foot.

“Those two variants are more transmissible and that is why we’re recommending that people wear a higher quality mask,” said Dr. Sabrina Assoumou, an Infectious Disease Physician at Baystate Medical Center.

With the Omicron variant, a hospital grade mask is best. The N95 hospital-grade mask is the top choice for filtering out airborne particles but KN95 and KF94 work too. The difference, Dr. Stella Hines, Associate Professor of Medicine University of Maryland School of Medicine explains, “N95 have two straps that go around the head as opposed to a KN95 usually will have ear loops.”

The tighter the fit, the better the protection. A typical surgical mask provides decent protection, but doesn’t seal tightly around the nose and mouth. “You will know if it’s not sealed if your glasses fog up,” Dr. Hines continued.

Many pharmacy’s around the country are dealing with shortages of masks. 22News went our local pharmacy and found that they had a lot of cloth masks but low inventory of medical ones. The good news, there are plenty available online but beware, there are many fake N95 masks online.

Look for N95 masks certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, they should carry the “NIOSH” stamp. Projectn95.Org is a non-profit with links to certified masks.

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