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Masks are as important as ever to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, thanks to the rise of the highly infectious Omicron variant. And, while you might have tossed your old masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that all Americans — regardless of vaccination status — mask up indoors where there is substantial risk or high spread of COVID-19.
Still, it's tough to know which masks are the most effective.
We’re not talking about the cute fabric masks emblazoned with the name of your favorite band. We’re talking about KN95 masks — the ones the CDC specifically recommends you wear in high-risk situations (say, on public transportation) to protect from possible transmission. Powecom is one of the only masks recommended by the FDA, and they're $16 for 10 at Amazon.
And if you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping, of course. Not yet a member? No problem. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial here. (And by the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on orders of $25 or more.)
Does the brand matter? Yes, according to the FDA, it does. Read more on this below.
Understanding the N95 / KN95 connection
KN95 masks are very similar to N-95 masks, which are one step up from KN95s, Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. In fact, during the early days of the pandemic when medical-grade masks were in particularly short supply, the FDA granted what’s known as ‘emergency use authorization’ for KN95 masks — meaning they could be used in hospitals.
But not all brands of KN95 masks are created equal. Recently, after researching effectiveness, the FDA removed its emergency use authorization for several manufacturers of KN95 masks. Powecom masks made it through the tests. They’re approved by the FDA and officially included on the FDA Emergency Use Authorization List. Like the others on the list, the Powecom KN95 mask is confirmed to filter out 95 percent of particles or more.
Not sure where to look? “If your source for a KN95 mask is reliable, you should be fine,” explains Dr. Schaffner. The good ones are “comparable to the N95 masks that we use,” he says.
“The basic difference [between N95 and KN95 masks] is regulatory,” says Dr. Kavita Patel, managing director of clinical transformation at The Brookings Institution’s Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform. “KN95 masks are approved by Chinese regulators, and in theory they are similar to N95 masks, which are approved by the FDA — but are also likely to be manufactured in China.”
Do you need to wear a Powecom KN95 mask all the time?
Our experts tell Yahoo Life that three-ply disposable masks or cloth masks should do the job when you’re outdoors and keeping at least six feet away from others. But KN95 masks by Powecom offer more protection and are protective in riskier situations — if you’re flying, for example, or taking a bus or train.
These masks have a three-dimensional design that makes it easier to breathe if you need to keep your mask on for long periods. Made of soft cotton, the masks have elastic ear loops and a metal strip for a snug fit over the nose.
Keep in mind that wearing a mask doesn’t mean you should stop practicing known methods of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Getting vaccinated and boosted, social distancing and frequent, thorough hand-washing are critical. Explains Dr. Schaffner, “We do these things in combination, not in isolation.”
KN95 masks that are approved with the FDA’s emergency-use authorization are actually hard to find these days. So stick with best practices and secure some Powecom KN95 masks for higher-risk settings. You’ll be taking great care of yourself and others.
Amazon shoppers love them, too
One shopper writes, "I was in a car with my someone, whom I did not know was COVID positive at the time, for 3 hours (family emergency). I wore this mask and he wore a typical, thinner blue mask. He had been exposed a few days before and tested positive a few days later. All of my tests have been negative."
Another shared: "I love these masks. I am crazy about COVID and check everything. I ran every known test on these masks and they all came up good. I’m a teacher ... and I feel as protected as possible with these masks."
This five-star reviewer says that these masks have also helped when faced with COVID exposure "Started a new job that is currently remote, but had to train in the office for the first week. The gal who trained me my last day in office came down with COVID symptoms that evening and tested positive the next day. I was in the same room with her for nine hours. I wore this mask that day, and did not get COVID during my two weeks of self-quarantine after. This mask prevented me from catching COVID."
(Please note these reviews are anecdotal evidence.)
Want to check out your options? Here are other excellent KN95 masks available:
Want to buy in bulk and eliminate the stress of restocking? This 50-pack is for you. Each mask has a roomy breathing area, a metal nose bridge for a snug fit, and folds for easy storage.
“Tested masks in heavy smoke of CA fires — they do not let any smoke smell in, which is a great test, because smoke is the smallest particle and only N95s work for it. At the same time, they allow easy breathing,” says a satisfied shopper.
The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.
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