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Types of masks, ranked


Over the last two years, we have all gotten used to wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But when it comes to the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, not all masks are created equal.

If you are still wearing a cloth mask…it’s time for an upgrade! Cloth masks are easy to find or make yourself—but they offer only limited protection against getting or spreading COVID-19. Surgical masks, if they are of medical-grade quality and worn tightly across the face, are better than cloth masks. They work best with a “mask fitter”—a frame or brace that is worn over the mask, ensuring an improved fit—and they should be worn only once, rather than reused repeatedly.

But the best kinds of masks are called KN95 and N95 respirator masks. Masks with these designations must meet certain technical standards, and they are much more effective at keeping the wearer and the community safe from the coronavirus. They are relatively comfortable—as comfortable as a mask can be, anyway—and easy to wear, without the need for a mask fitter. And they can be used multiple times.


Do masks really work? Absolutely. COVID-19 is spread primarily through tiny particles in our breath. If you need to be convinced, put on a KN95 mask and try blowing out a candle—the flame probably won’t even move. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone over 2 years old wear a mask in indoor public places. Even if you are already fully vaccinated, you should still wear a mask when inside a public place in order to protect vulnerable people and prevent possibly spreading COVID-19 to others.

If you need help contacting your state or local health department, send us a private message on our Facebook page, and we will gladly assist you.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Your Guide to Masks: How to select, properly wear, clean, and store masks,” last updated Oct. 25, 2021.

Chas Danner, “Seriously, upgrade your face mask.” New York Intelligencer, updated Dec. 30, 2021. 

Migrant Clinicians Network, “Ficha informativa: Protegiéndonos a nosotros mismos y a los demás con respiradores y mascarillas,” last updated Dec. 14, 2021.