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Do N95 masks stop the delta variant?

We may need to consider the N95 to stop the delta variant

Illustration by Zoë Petersen

The delta variant is surging throughout the United States, and there has been a lot of talk about bringing masks back into our lives. Public health experts are considering mask mandates and guidances again as the delta variant continues to spread.

But there’s another conversation-starter: What mask should you wear to stop the delta variant?

Well, there’s a simple answer. Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine and an infectious-disease expert at the University of California at San Francisco, recently told The Washington Post that heavy duty masks will be important to stopping variants.

  • “We can’t say we’re going back to masks without discussing type of mask.”

Why would we wear masks again?

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that we might want to consider wearing the N95 or K-N95 masks to stay safe from the delta variant.

  • “So it’s not more airborne and it’s not more likely to be permeable to a mask. So a mask can still be helpful,” Gottlieb said on “Face the Nation” show Sunday. “I think, though, if you’re going to consider wearing a mask, the quality of the mask does matter. So if you can get your hands on a KN95 mask or an N95 mask, that’s going to afford you a lot more protection.”

Why should you use an N95 mask?

Experts told The Washington Post that the N95 mask can offer more protection against the novel coronavirus, especially the delta variant which is more easily transmissible.

  • In fact, a cloth mask might not be helpful for people as much as it used to be because of the transmissibility of the delta variant, experts told The Washington Post. That’s especially true for unvaccinated people.

Should you wear a mask again?

Vulnerable people — those with medical conditions that could lead to severe COVID-19 — may want to consider masking up again, especially with N95s or the similar KN95 mask.

  • “If they need to be in settings where they’re mixing with unvaccinated people or they don’t know the vaccination status, then upgrading their mask is very reasonable,” Paul Sax, clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told The Washington Post.