CDC says N95 masks provide the most protection against COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its mask guidance on Friday, saying that N95 masks provide the most protection against COVID-19.

The update comes days after Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Overnight Health Care — Biden faces pressure from Democrats on COVID-19 Walensky says she will improve CDC messaging amid criticism MORE, the head of the CDC, said the website is “in need of updating right now” to elaborate on the “different levels of protection different masks provide.”

The CDC said the N95 and KN95 masks provide the best protection due to its "filtering facepiece respirators." 

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When worn consistently and properly, they provide the highest level of protection from particles, including the virus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, they contain your respiratory droplets and particles so you do not expose others,” the CDC said. 

When properly fitted, the masks filter 95 percent of particles. The CDC warns individuals who choose an KN95 mask to be careful, as 60 percent of the masks in 2020 and 2021 were fake. 

The CDC also recommends people not buy the masks labeled “surgical” N95 as they should be reserved for health care workers. 

However, the CDC removed its concerns about a shortage of normal N95 masks for health care workers. At the beginning of the pandemic, the CDC advised against N95 masks as there were fears there would not be enough for health care workers if the general public sought them. 

The CDC says cloth masks are the least protective, but the official recommendation for masks remains that any mask a person will wear is better than no mask at all. 

“We do encourage all Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID 19,” Walensky said at a White House briefing Wednesday. “And the recommendation is not going to change.”

The updated mask guidance comes as the omicron variant has caused a surge in cases around the U.S. due to its high transmissibility.