Physicians suggest that cloth masks may not provide enough protection against the highly transmissible omicron variant, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).
The problem: Single-layer cloth masks may not offer as much protection as other face coverings. According to specialists, while these masks can block larger droplets that carry the virus, they’re less effective in preventing smaller aerosols or particles from pushing through.
The recommendations: Doctors suggest pairing cloth masks with surgical counterparts made of polypropylene, which have electrostatic charge properties that help to keep the virus at bay, or using more effective multilayered respiratory masks capable of blocking viral particles more efficiently like the N95 or KN95. The U.S.-certified N95 mask is also made of polypropylene but has four layers, offering the highest degree of protection against droplets and aerosols, while China-certified KN95 masks have five layers of overlapping material and a tighter fit to reduce droplets from escaping or entering.
Why now: With omicron surging worldwide, physicians are cautioning that more porous face coverings like homemade cloth masks, gaiters or bandannas won’t do the job against the more transmissible variant.