Doctor explains why cloth masks may not be effective in protecting you from omicron

Dustin Dorsey Image
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
Why cloth masks may not be enough to protect you from omicron
California suggests masks like N95, KN95, KF94 or a surgical mask paired with a cloth mask is the way you can best protect your from omicron.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Doctors say any mask is better than no mask, but cloth masks may not be getting the job done well enough against omicron.

As cases surge, many are turning to N95 or KN95 masks to protect themselves.

The high transmissibility of the variant has led the California Department of Public Health to recommend avoiding cloth masks to protect yourself against omicron and UCSF's Dr. Peter Chin-Hong agrees.

"If you're wearing a cloth mask in a sparsely populated area, it's going to be fine probably, if you're outdoors in particular if you wear a mask at all," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "But indoors, if you're staying there for a long time and there's a lot of people, you kind of want to up your mask game."

The state suggests masks like N95, KN95, KF94 or a surgical mask paired with a cloth mask is the way you can do just that.

The fibers in the mask are created to prevent droplets of the virus from reaching your nose and mouth. While they can get worn out due to use, they are still good to reuse if not soiled, damaged or hard to breathe through.

With the omicron staying in the air longer than other variants, these masks can best protect you.

"Upping your mask game is important because you can go into the room and the person who has COVID could've left, but these dots, these virus particles are still lingering in the air," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "As you move around from place to place, you don't want anything to get inside of you."

Revival Barber and Beauty owner Maddix Bruyn trusts in these high-grade masks.

His shop keeps the doors open, clients distanced and now requires these same N95, KN95, KF94 or double surgical masks for anyone in the shop.

As Bruyn sees the omicron continuing to surge in the Bay Area and beyond, he believes the better masks will offer a safer experience.

"If the numbers were what they are now last year, we would've already been shut down," Bruyn said. "So we're doing everything we possibly can to make sure that we not only can we still have our livelihoods, but make sure our clients feel extremely safe."

Dr. Chin-Hong emphasized that any mask is still better than no mask.

The indoor mask mandate remains in place in California until at least Jan. 15.