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As omicron spreads, what's the best mask to wear? - Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

As more and more cases of the omicron variant of covid19 are discovered in the population, the issue of masking and following the other public health regulations is becoming more and more important.

People are being urged to upgrade the quality of their masks, or at the very least, wear them properly.

Speaking at a Ministry of Health media conference on January 15, CMO Dr Roshan Parasram said the omicron variant seems to be more aerosolised (spread through a fine spray) and therefore more transmissible. He said the recommendation is still for surgical masks to be worn, with N95 masks being acceptable.

“We’re looking at a synergistic effect in terms of all the three Ws (wearing a mask, watching your distance and washing your hands) at the same time, so spacing is important to go together with your masking.

"It depends on the type of setting you work in and the individual risk, but from a public-sector-policy perspective we have been saying to wear masks for quite a while, it is now legislation.”

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in January 2020 recommended wearing the most protective mask possible, which should fit well and be comfortable enough to wear consistently.

It said, “Due to the highly transmissible nature of the omicron variant, the CDC recommends wearing NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety) approved respirators. One example is the N95 respirator. However, the CDC recommends reserving this face covering for healthcare settings. Though KN95s do not offer as much protection, they may still be considered. Be sure that your N95 or K95 purchases are not counterfeit.

[caption id="attachment_936349" align="alignnone" width="1024"] FILE: Face mask, “neck” mask and no mask in Port of Spain. CMO Dr Roshan Parasram said: It is hard to get people to wear even one mask, to cover your mouth, nose, and chin, right? So if we can have people wearing a mask properly at this point in time, we will take that for now."[/caption]

"The face covering with the best protection is the disposable NIOSH-approved respirator. One example is the N95 respirator which is used for surgery. This face covering leaves no gaps and is built with two straps, not ear loops. The next best alternative is K95 disposable surgical masks which offer a close fit and good protection, though not ranked as high by the CDC as the NIOSH approved respirators. These masks rely on ear loops.”

The CDC said when choosing surgical masks, procedure masks or medical procedure masks, people should look for nose wire, multiple layers of non-woven material, and the ability to fit over the mouth, nose and chin with no gaps.

If cloth masks are being used, it said, tightly woven fabrics and multiple layers are a must.

“For extra protection and better fit, the CDC advises wearing two masks, a cloth mask over a disposable one. You can combine them with a fitter or a brace. If your disposable mask has ear loops, you can create a tighter fit by knotting the ear loops where they join the mask. Elastic straps for the back of the head