Do N95 masks prevent the spread of Omicron better than cloth masks?

Experts say they are helping curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

Despite outcry over the shortage of N95 masks across the province, BC’s top doctor emphasizes that face coverings shouldn’t be the only layer of protection against the spread of the coronavirus.

As the number of daily cases of the virus continues to rise in British Columbia due to the Omicron variant, provincial health worker Dr Bonnie Henry told reporters at a press briefing Friday, January 7. that COVID-19 security plans must include multiple levels of protection.

“I think we have to put it in perspective and watch [World Health Organization] documents [and] look at what we know about the way things are transmitted in public places, ”said Henry.

“Outside of healthcare facilities … and schools are a very good example … we have a lot, a lot of stuff in place that makes it very unlikely that viruses and other pathogens will be transmitted.”

Layers of protection, in addition to a “hierarchy of protection,” greatly reduce the risk of transmission, Henry said. Examples of a safety protocol include reducing the number of people, preventing mix and match, or having students attend classes at different times. In addition, companies can use screening to prevent “entry of danger” from infecting other people.

“So you can’t get infected if there is no one with the virus in the frame,” she stressed. “We do a lot of things in these structured environments to make sure you don’t have to rely on the moderately increased filtration capacity of a respirator compared to a medical mask.”

Henry added that “we have to be pragmatic and practical” and the best face is the one that fits your face well.

The Public Health Agency of Canada released updated information on face masks and protective layers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in November 2021. Wearing a face mask that fits comfortably and correctly is most important, Henry said. But while non-medical masks are fine for most people, she noted that others might consider wearing medical masks.

Non-medical masks can generally help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but PHAC notes that medical masks and respirators provide “better protection.”

Experts say policies banning the use of N95 are a step in the wrong direction as more protective masking is crucial to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

In an interview with the Canadian pressLinsey Marr, an engineering professor at Virginia Tech, said medical masks and respirators are made from materials that can both filter out particles of all sizes. The main difference, however, comes down to the fit – respirators are designed to form a seal around the face, while medical masks often leave spaces under the cheeks or chin that allow very small particles to seep in. .

These leaks result in significantly less protection against the new coronavirus, she explained. A properly fitted respirator offers protection of over 95%, while the effectiveness ranges from 20% to 90% for medical masks depending on its fit.

Find more information on the updated face mask guidelines with the Public Health Agency of Canada online.

With files from the Canadian Press.

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