Wearing facial coverings in indoor public spaces — especially properly fitted masks — is more important than ever in the face of the most highly contagious variant of COVID-19 yet, according to Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.
Wearing any type of mask is better than wearing no mask indoors, Levine has said. But, for the past several weeks, Levine has used public speaking opportunities as a way to urge Vermonters to wear "higher quality masks" that he and other health officials say will provide better protection against the variant, omicron.
Cloth masks have been the most easily accessible types of facial coverings during the pandemic, especially at the beginning when more heavy-duty N95 masks and surgical masks were being prioritized for health care workers. Recently, N95 masks, which meet U.S. federal standards, and KN95 masks, which meet Chinese masking standards, have become more available to the general public, but can still be tricky to find.
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Masks with more layers and a tighter fit better protect against tiny droplets in the air from the omicron variant, according to reporting by USA TODAY. Cloth masks do not have the same ability to filter out droplets as higher-quality masks.
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Levine has said that N95 and KN95 masks will offer the highest level of protection against the omicron variant. For people who do not have access to these masks, layering a disposable surgical mask underneath a cloth mask will also work, he said.
"Just please don't rely on a single-ply cloth mask," Levine said during a news conference on Jan. 11.
This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: Health commissioner: Cloth masks not enough for COVID variant omicron