What Makes a Good Mask?

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Not sure what makes for a good mask? Or what kind of protection each mask offers? CCN’s Chief Medical Officer Wayne C. Teris, MD, CPE, FAAFP offers a simple breakdown of the different mask types and their efficacy.

The study depicted in the graphic below was done pre-Omicron, and Omicron is much more transmissible compared to other variants of COVID-19. Therefore, in reality, these numbers may be a little bit different but the information is still relevant for today’s landscape. This graphic shows mask efficacy based on the type of mask the person is wearing and whether they are infected by COVID or not.

What makes a good mask? Here is a simple breakdown of mask efficacy by mask type.

N95, KN95 (China – manufacturer should hold a NIOSH Certificate), KF94 (Korea) or a double-mask (cloth mask on top of a surgical mask OR cloth mask with filter insert) – all provide good filtration and fit. The differences between these options are minimal – use what is available to you and fits you well.

Surgical mask – has good filtration, but has gaps along the edges

Good fitting cloth mask – can have a good fit, but will have less filtration

The current recommendation is to wear a well-fitting N95, KN95, or KF94 mask if possible due to the transmissibility of the Omicron variant. Next best would be cloth mask over a surgical mask or a cloth mask with filter insert.


Disclaimer: The materials presented are purely educational are not intended to be taken as medical advice. Each one of us is at varying degrees of risk and should consult with their own health care provider to receive appropriate medical advice or recommendations. The information included in this blog post was current as of January 10, 2022.