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Certain masks provide better protection against COVID-19, Delta variant, doctors say

Dr. James Jarvis of Northern Light Health said all coverings protect against the virus, and that the vaccine is still the best shield from COVID-19 and the variants.

PORTLAND, Maine — As more school departments in Maine announce mask requirements for the fall with the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreading in the state, masks are once again becoming important after a few weeks of relaxed guidance from the CDC.

The CDC recently reversed the guidance, recommending masks for people, regardless of vaccination status, in indoor, public places.

There are many different types of masks. The three most common categories are cloth, disposable, and masks that meet a standard, such as an N95.

The key is to make sure the mask effectively blocks the spread of droplets, moisture from the nose or mouth that contain the virus, either from you or from someone else.

The CDC says the most effective cloth masks

  • Have multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric
  • Have a nose wire
  • Block light when held up to a bright light source

The CDC says you should not wear masks with valves or vents because they can allow droplets to escape. Single layer masks or those made of thin fabric are not as effective. You can layer your masks for extra protection.

The most effective disposable masks:

  • Have multiple layers of non-woven material
  • Have a nose wire

The CDC says to not wear disposable masks that are loose-fitting or that are wet or dirty.

Masks that meet a standard are designed and tested to ensure they perform at a consistent level to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Most familiar are KN95 and N95.

As for N95 masks, health care workers should get priority to have these, according to the CDC.

"When we cough, sneeze, talk, sing, yell, it's the moisture -- those water-laden particles, the droplets that we're trying to prevent the spread of," said Dr. James Jarvis of Northern Light Health. "We know a two-layered cloth mask is better than a single-layer mask and we know, going up, a procedural or surgical mask is better than that, and then of course the N95 or KN95 are more superior to those. They just block more of that droplet that comes out when we cough, sneeze, talk, yell, sing."

N95 masks are recommended for healthcare workers because of the potential for them to get exposed to the virus in the workplace. Also, N95 masks need to be properly fitted to each individual to be most effective.