According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, single-layer cloth masks may not provide adequate protection against the highly infectious omicron variant of COVID-19.
Many infectious disease experts noted people prefer cloth masks because they are more comfortable and fashionable to wear, but these masks can only block larger droplets of COVID-19, not smaller aerosols or particles that can also carry the virus.
According to the report, the Mayo Clinic now requires all patients and visitors to wear surgical masks, N95 or KN95 masks, and if anyone wears a single-layer, homemade cloth mask or bandana, they will be given a medical-grade one to wear over it.
Surgical masks block the COVID-19 virus due to their polypropylene electrostatic charge characteristics, whereas N95 masks have a tighter mesh of fibers than surgical or cloth masks with electrostatic charge characteristics, allowing the mask to be most effective at blocking inhaled and exhaled particles.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the other hand continues to recommend N95 masks only for health care workers, advising people to wear cloth masks with two (or more) layers of fabric that completely cover the face and mouth, fit ‘snugly’ against the sides of the face (without any gaps), and have a nose wire to prevent air leaking from the top of the mask.
But Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, said, “If everyone is just wearing a cloth mask or just a surgical mask, it won’t make any difference” against the omicron variant.