Which face mask is best to wear? Health officials weigh in

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Omicron variant is not slowing down and while vaccines can help minimize the symptoms, they don't prevent infections.

Experts say the best way to protect yourself and those around you is by wearing a mask, but studies show the type matters.

"Not all masks are created equal," says Carrie Monteiro with the Tulare County Public Health Department. "The most effective is the N95, the respirator that is fit tested and often what you see hospital workers wearing."

But if you can't find those, there are other options like surgical masks or cloth masks.

However, cloth masks must either be three layers on their own or layered.

"A surgical mask and lay a cloth mask on top," Montiero said. "This is double masking and would help improve the fit and filtration, improving its effectiveness."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering updating its guidance and could recommend the more protective N95 or KN95 options, but that has not happened yet.

California's workplace rules could also see a shift.

But until guidelines are changed, Monteiro says it's up to each individual to use the most protective option they have available.

"If you do have access to a more effective mask, we encourage it but any mask is better than no mask," she said.

The health department continues to see an uptick in cases - but on a brighter note, they see an increase in people getting their first dose of the vaccine.
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