What masks are best for Delta variant?

·2 min read
People wearing face masks in California (AP)
People wearing face masks in California (AP)

A former Food and Drug Administration commissioner has offered advice about the kind of masks that offer the most protection against the Delta variant of Covid-19.

Dr Scott Gottlieb told CBS’s Face The Nation on Sunday that despite the current prevalence of the Delta variant in the US, the “characteristics of the virus haven’t changed”.

“It’s not more airborne and it’s not more likely to be permeable to a mask,” Dr Gottlieb said.

“The first thing I would urge Americans to do is get vaccinated,” he told programme host John Dickerson.

“Certainly anyone who goes out and gets vaccinated right now is going to have a vaccine that protects them through the fall and the winter, so they’re going to have broad, durable protection.”

He went on to say that masks can still be helpful for those who want to add an additional measure of protection, for example in a high-prevalence environment.

“The quality of the mask does matter. So if you can get your hands on a KN95 or an N95 mask, that’s going to afford you a lot more protection,” Dr Gottlieb continued.

Both the N95 and KN95 have high filtration capacities, capturing 95 per cent of tiny particles and fit snugly, so are considered better choices than cloth masks and surgical masks.

Dr Gottlieb explained that N95 masks were now readily available: “Initially at the outset of this epidemic, we were encouraging people not to use N95 masks because there weren’t enough of those masks for medical workers. Now there’s plenty of masks. There’s plenty of N95 masks in the system.”

The Delta variant emerged in India in late 2020 and has since been detected in more than 60 countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) it now accounts for 80 per cent of all Covid-19 infections in the United States.