NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. health officials on Friday urged people to wear N95 or KN95 masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
These types of masks are considered the most suitable for filtering the air and are used by health personnel. But before they were in short supply, and officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had said they should be distributed to medical workers in the first instance.
In a guidance update released Friday afternoon, CDC officials removed concerns related to shortages, saying more clearly that well-fitting N95 and KN95 masks offer the most protection.
However, agency officials noted that some masks are more difficult to tolerate than others, and advise choosing masks that fit well and are worn consistently.
“Our main message remains that any mask is better than none,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said in a statement.
The CDC has been modifying its recommendations on the use of masks throughout the pandemic.
In their previous update in September, CDC officials were more favorable to disposable N95 masks, saying they could be used in certain situations if supplies were available.
Some examples are: being around many people for a long period of time on a train, bus, or plane; care for someone in poor health; or be more susceptible to presenting a severe picture of COVID-19.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that his administration planned to make “high-quality masks,” including N95s, available to citizens for free.
He indicated that more details will be given next week. The federal government has a stockpile of more than 750 million N95 masks, according to the White House.
The latest CDC guidelines note that there is a special category of “N95 surgical” masks, specifically designed to protect against blood spatter and other risks in operating rooms. These masks are not for sale to the general public, and should be reserved for healthcare workers, according to the agency.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for the content.