It's more of a guideline than a rule, but official mask guidance was updated late Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Americans "may choose" to wear N95 and KN95 masks because they do best in blocking coronavirus infection, NBC reports. Those are the masks worn by health care workers, and that's been the issue. The N95 and KN95 supply has been limited because they were going to medical professionals. The CDC no longer expresses any concern about shortages.
Assuming they fit well, those two types of masks provide the most protection, the guidance says, per the AP, without offering a specific recommendation. Officials advise that people who are bothered by N95 and KN95 masks choose whatever type of mask fits and will get regular use. "Our main message continues to be that any mask is better than no mask," a CDC spokeswoman said. Whatever mask people choose, it should be comfortable and fit close to the face, leaving no gaps. President Biden said this week that N95 and other high-quality masks will be distributed free, but details have not been released.
The CDC ranked mask types by protection in its announcement, per NBC. N95s approved by NIOSH and KN95s top the list. Next was a disposable surgical mask, but the agency recommends wearing a cloth mask over it to ensure it fits tightly. "Loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection," the agency said. As a test, the CDC said, a cloth mask should block light when looking through it at a bright source. (Read more face masks stories.)