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VERIFY: Are some masks better than others amid coronavirus spread?

The VERIFY team has received numerous questions about masks. Our health experts explained that not all masks are created equally.

WASHINGTON — Question: 

Do certain masks work better than others in preventing the spread of COVID-19?


Yes. N95 Respirators are far more effective in stopping the spread of viruses than regular surgical masks. Health experts emphasized that these masks should be reserved for those who are showing symptoms, and those who are taking care of others. 


The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

NIOSH Graphic from CDC


As the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, there is a growing fear of people who want to be prepared. Many want to know whether they should purchase masks, and if so, what type is preferable. 

Originally, health experts at the Centers for Disease Control said that masks were not needed for healthy people. 

That guidance changed in late March/early April.

In light of recent studies regarding people who can continue to spread the virus but remain asymptomatic, the CDC recommends the use of cloth face coverings.

"In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission," the CDC wrote on its website.

The CDC maintains that cloth face coverings are recommended and asks that you reserve N-95 masks for healthcare workers.

With more people expected to become sick, the Verify Team looked to the experts to find out which masks are preferable. The Centers For Disease Control broke down to main types of masks: Surgical masks and N95 Respirators. 

Surgical masks are loose-fitting and are tested by the Food and Drug Administration. These masks are fluid resistant and can protect someone from large droplets. 

However, they do not offer a reliable level of protection from inhaling "smaller airborne particles." They are "not considered respiratory protection." 

Meanwhile, N95 respirators are tight-fitting and are evaluated and tested by NIOSH, under strict requirements. These masks not only block large droplets but small particles as well. 

These N95 Respirators filter out at least 95 percent of airborne particles. 

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