More-infectious variants of the coronavirus and new federal requirements have people rethinking the quality of their face masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19 until more people can be vaccinated.

Starting Feb. 2, 2021, masks are required on planes, buses, trains and all public transportation hubs in the United States.

For all of Oregon, face coverings are required for everyone 5 and older in indoor public spaces and outdoors anywhere physical distancing isn’t possible.

Not everyone needs medical-grade N95 filters, but Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage everyone not at risk to wear a face covering with at least two layers of protection when around people not in their household.

Other health experts recommend most people wear a tightly woven face covering over a disposable surgical mask.

See The Oregonian/OregonLive’s coronavirus coverage

The face coverings should be well-fitted over your nose and mouth (review the CDC’s “seal check”) and you should sanitize or wash your hands when handling masks. Do not touch the mask when wearing it.

People who have been exposed to the coronavirus, have health issues or live in areas with high transmission rates can better protect themselves and others by wearing a certified N95 mask that filters 95% of aerosols people emit when coughing, sneezing, breathing and talking.

But where can you find N95s that meet the highest standards? And how can you keep the cost down? N95 masks were about 50 cents a piece before the coronavirus pandemic, but now prices are around $2 each for KN95 masks imported from China and around $5 for a N95 mask made in the U.S. (A 3M-brand valve-less N95 respirator is $1.41 in an eight-pack at Home Depot.)

David Sugar of Ashland was part of a friend’s group email asking if anyone would like to buy N95 masks in bulk through Costco (100 masks at $3.20 each). But Sugar and his wife, Skye, already had a supply of 3M-brand filters, which they purchased when smoke blanketed Ashland two years ago.

They wear layered cloth masks with a pocket in which they insert the N95 filter when they need to go inside a public place.

A recent study of 10 types of face coverings found that cloth and blue surgical masks partially filter the small COVID-19-spreading particles known as aerosols that people emit, according to Harvard Medical School health experts.

As the number in the name indicates, N95 masks made to U.S. standards and KN95 imported from China, are intended to filter at least 95% of airborne particles.

“Actually a type of respirator, an N95 mask offers more protection than a surgical mask does because it can filter out both large and small particles when the wearer inhales,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

While N95 and KN95 face masks were hard to get and were being reserved mostly for front-line medical workers at the beginning of the pandemic last year, supplies of these items have expanded recently and more people have been ordering them online for personal use.

Before you buy, see the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved products listed by brand and make sure the manufacturer has a NIOSH certificate.

See other federal guidance on mask standards.

The FDA has a list of non-NIOSH-approved KN95 respirator models approved for emergency use during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

N95 respirators are intended to be used once and then properly disposed of and replaced with a new N95 respirator.

Here are N95 or KN95 respirators available to purchase online right now:

AOK N95 mask: This $2.99 mask at Well Before is sold out but you can be notified when they’re in stock again.

BLSCode KN95 protective mask ($1.33 each if purchased in a 60-pack, individually wrapped for $79.74 through Amazon): The mask is made of two layers of non-woven cloth, two layers of melt-blown fabric and one layer of hot air cotton with an adjustable metal nose bridge wire. Read more about KN95s

Home Depot has N95 and KN95 as well as reusable cloth masks. Avoid the N95 masks with a valve or vent. A six-pack of 3M disposable, valve-less N95 respirators is $8.46, or $1.41 a mask.

Kimtech (Kimberly Clark) N95 pouch respirator ($3.99 each from Well Before): The NIOSH-certified mask has a large, duckbill-style breathing chamber and foam headband to maximize comfort. There is also a bendable nosepiece for a consistent seal.

N95 Medical Supplies has three-ply surgical masks as well as N95 and KN95 masks. The ALG hard-cup shell N95 mask with NIOSH approval is sold in a 25-pack for $99.99.

Portland-based Protectly has U.S.-made surgical, N95 and KN95 masks by 3M, Fangtian, Moldex, 3PE and Medline with a 100% guaranteed. Take 23% off Respokare’s N95, NIOSH-approved mask at $5 each in a five- or 30-pack.

Powecom KN95 face mask: The FDA emergency-use authorized mask has multi-layer protection. Available in a 10-pack for $12.94 from Amazon.

Respokare Niosh N95 respirator (10-pack for $89.99 from N95MaskCo.com): This mask design by personal protective equipment company Innonix has patented multilayer, anti-viral technology that blocks 95% of small (.3 micron) particles and is said to inactivate up to 99.9% within minutes. Also available in a 5-pack for $49.99 or a 20-pack for $179.99.

Well Before KN95 mask by the company formerly known as Honest PPE Supply: Individually wrapped, the disposable mask has a five-layer design and adjustable nosepiece. Available for $1.99 each but must be purchased in 10 packs. Kid-size masks are also available.

Xiantao Zhongyi N95 respirator mask (20-pack for $179.99

Read More: Shopping for KN95 or N95 face masks to protect yourself from COVID-19? Know this

2021-02-02 04:11:00

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