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How to reuse your N95 or KN95 mask to fight omicron variant

Worried your N95 or KN95 might have germs in it? Here’s how to keep it safe

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Linsey Jones wears an N95 mask.

Linsey Jones, a medical assistant working at a drive-up COVID-19 testing clinic, wears an N95 mask, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle. People using the facility, which is being run by the Pierce County Dept. of Emergency Management, faced waits of several hours Tuesday for testing.

Ted S. Warren, Associated Press

The omicron variant of the coronavirus may have changed the way you mask up, encouraging you to invest in a higher-quality mask to stay safe from the contagious variant.

  • So how do you keep these face masks clean?

Dr. Joe Gastaldo, an infectious disease expert at OhioHealth, and Dr. Jessica Shepherd, the chief medical officer at VeryWell Health based in New York, told WBNS-TV that you can use a brown paper bag to clean and reuse your N95 or KN95 masks.

  • Gastaldo said: “The concern about wearing a mask in public, obviously, if you get particles on it, perhaps even the virus, but if you store it in a dry bag, you are essentially sanitizing again over a period of time.”
  • Shepherd said: “It’s not the bag that’s doing the magic trick, it’s actually the process of keeping the mask away from decontaminating someone else or a surface, and also keeping a dry environment in order for the virus to not spread or stay on the mask.”

The experts said people can put their mask in a brown paper bag for 24 to 48 hours in a dry environment so that it can become clean.

  • This is not recommended for health care professionals.

Experts have been pushing for people to start wearing better masks to fight off the omicron variant, which has proved to be more transmissible, as I wrote for the Deseret News. Specifically, experts have been worried about cloth masks since they offer less protection.

  • “You want to make sure it’s at least a three layer surgical mask or an N-95 or higher,” said Dr. Asha Shajahan, the medical director of Community Health for Beaumont Grosse Pointe in Detroit, according to Fox 2 Detroit.
  • We want to make sure it’s not a cloth mask. A cloth mask does not offer the protection that you need.”