Amidst the uncertainty of COVID-19, there has also been a lot of confusion over protection. Should you wear a mask in public? Which type of masks are required for healthcare workers? What's the difference between types of masks?
Masks or face coverings may be a requirement depending on your local, state, and industry regulations. But it's important to understand the difference between masks to find what you really need.
Our goal is to help ease some of the concerns and answer some of the most common questions about masks during and after the pandemic.
What's the difference between KN95 and N95 masks?
A KN95 is equivalent to an N95 mask, but is manufactured in China.
Both masks are respirators meant to provide a barrier between the person wearing them and particles or liquids in the air. An N95 and a KN95 are rated to filter 95% of particles.
N95 masks typically have two straps that wrap around the head for a better, more secure fit. Most KN95 masks have ear loops.
The biggest difference between products is whether or not they are approved for use by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). For healthcare applications, masks must meet all NIOSH requirements, although the FDA has temporarily authorized use of some masks that are non-NIOSH.
There are other types of masks to consider, too.
Surgical masks fit looser and are intended to protect patients, while also blocking out larger particles like droplets and liquids that may contain germs.
Single use face masks are thinner and not intended for use in healthcare facilities.
Right now, the CDC is asking everyone to reserve N95 and surgical masks for hospitals and critical businesses.
See the chart below for a full comparison.
|Healthcare applications||Some healthcare & other industries||Healthcare applications||Personal use|
|Filters 95% of particles||Filters 95% of particles||Blocks larger particles||Blocks larger particles|
Which medical face masks are recalled?
There is some confusion over whether KN95 masks are under recall.
At the end of March, the FDA authorized importing N95 masks from China even if they did not comply with NIOSH requirements, but did not include KN95 masks. There was a serious supply shortage, and everyone was looking at ways to get supplies quickly.
The FDA revised the order in April and again in May, allowing the import of some KN95 masks from China if certain criteria are met.
Here's the bottom line: The FDA temporarily authorized certain KN95 masks for use in the United States. See the complete list here.
The FDA released guidance for N95 masks, which also applies to KN95 masks. You can find that document here. Remember that an FDA approval does not mean the mask meets NIOSH requirements.
Some states have also recalled masks because they did not meet standards. Check with your state department of health for the latest recommendations.
If you're looking for masks that are NIOSH approved, check out this counterfeit warning from the CDC.
Are face masks effective during COVID-19?
Initially, there were questions about the effectiveness of face masks and protection against COVID-19.
The CDC updated its guidance on face masks because people may have the virus but never show symptoms.
The primary goal of a mask is to protect others. It also provides a barrier for yourself, but germs still have a small chance to slip through even the most protective masks.
Right now, the CDC recommends everyone wear a mask in public even if they are homemade. Your state, city, or your employer may also have specific requirements for you to follow.
Masks are only part of the equation in the fight against COVID-19. To protect yourself and your business, it's best to implement a cleaning plan that includes a combination of personal protective equipment, effective cleaning products, antimicrobial surface protectants, and germicidal UV. Contact us if you have any questions or would like to find the best solution for your company.