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Masks: What you need to know before choosing one

Medical experts say, given the rise in COVID-19 cases and the omicron variant, it's time to upgrade to surgical grade masks over cloth masks to boost protection

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With the omicron variant quickly spreading medical experts are reminding people the importance of practicing safety measures - including, proper masking. 

Dr. Thomas Russo is Chief of Infectious Disease at the University at Buffalo and says at this point surgical grade masks are the way to go to ensure a higher level of protection - for you and others. 

"I think it's time that we retire single and double cloth masks, they're just not as good. And they're just going to put you at higher risk from getting infected," Russo says. 

While a less effective mask is better than wearing no mask at all, especially in the current climate, Russo explains it's important for people to remember proper filtration and fit make all the difference. Hence, surgical grade masks are much more effective. 

"The high filtration capacity mask, such as the KN95 and N95 just protect you from the virus getting through your mask to a higher degree. Also, for most people, those high filtration masks just fit better, they wrap around your face, better yet, they tuck under your chin," Russo says.

While it may be easier and in ways more convenient to buy and use the standard blue cloth masks, they have some deficiencies.

Russo tells 2 On Your Side, "the blue mask that you showed me, it's not uncommon for some people to have gaps on the side. So those masks don't filter viruses well, and they tend not to fit as well."

While KN95 or N95 masks are more effective, they can also be a bit more challenging to wear over longer periods of time which is why, Russo says, wearing the proper fit is extremely important. 

"There's no point wearing one of these high filtration masks if you are going to wear it below your nose or incorrectly," he says. 

So, next time you pick up a mask, remember it's not just about having one, it's about wearing one with a purpose in mind - just a friendly reminder.

For more on the CDC's (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines on masking, visit their website

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