Update on masks?

What’s the current (12/27) story on masks? I haven’t listened to the last few days’ worth of repetitive, redundant, ever-repeated, duplicative blablabla on TV “news” shows that mostly go over (and over) the same pablum: get a booster, get vaxed, we’re not sure how transmissble omicron is, hold tight, and, yeah, wear a good mask.

Last I heard, cloth masks were ineffective against the virus so I went down to Home Depot and picked up a box of N95 respirator masks on a friend’s recommendation–when I got home, though, I saw the box was labeled “NOT FOR MEDICAL USE”–does that mean I should have gotten a k94 mask, or an m11 mask, or a HH88 mask? Jesus fuck–why can’t these things just be labeled “Highly effective against COVID” (or “ineffective” as the case may be)? 99.999% of the masks being sold these days, I’d guess, are purchased by folks looking for protection against covid, but it’s damnably hard to penetrate the mumbo-jumbo. What’s the latest?

Did I do ok in buying a N95 mask? Should I have bought something better? Is there something better to be bought?

A little searching gave me this link (sorry for the ads–I had to mute my laptop to read the thing):

Still doesn’t answer some of my questions, raises several more. But it’s a start.

Cloth masks are effective in lessening the spread, they protect others, not you. it’s a group effort.
N95 respirators masks will protect you but allow uninhibited spread of the virus if you’re infected. The outgoing air is not filtered.

That’s almost certainly a CYA thing. They A)Don’t want to be sued if you get sick or get someone else sick and B)Don’t want people in the medical field buying their masks at Home Depot. I’d have to assume that in order to be labeled N95, they’d have to be up to the same standards as any other N95 mask.

It’s like the Nitrile/Vinyl/Latex gloves you pick up that specifically mention they’re non-sterile. It doesn’t mean they’re full of germs, but again, they don’t want a surgeon picking up gloves on Amazon and they don’t want you suing them if you get sick after using them.

Not all N95 masks have vents (I assume that’s what you’re referring to). Also, the CDC is currently saying that a vented N95 mask is still better than a regular surgical mask (like the cheap blue ones we’ve all been wearing).
And, as one might expect, if you tape the vent shut, it works even better.

These findings show that FFRs with an exhalation valve provide respiratory protection to the wearer and can also reduce particle emissions to levels similar to or better than those provided by surgical masks, procedure masks, or cloth face coverings.
(FFRs = Face Filtering Respirators)

Yeah, I thought the respirator designation referred to the valved version.

Thanks for letting me know. This is unusually confusing, for so simple and vital a topic.

I think that’s what we all thought. I just picked up that little bit of trivia after the mask hysteria calmed down so it wasn’t circulating as much as it was back in March.

In addition to CYA, it’s also likely they’re not tested to the same standards as ones meant for medical or industrial use. So, even ignoring Covid, they don’t want to be responsible when a homeowner decides to take a leaf blower to the asbestos insulation in in their basement basement.

You have to wonder why the CDC doesn’t publicize these mask guidelines more.

Presumably they not only want to persuade the public that masking is good for their health, but also to help those who want to mask effectively what to look for in a mask.

For example, I first wanted to buy an upgrade from a cloth mask over a month ago. But I saw that these N95s were not approved for medical use and I thought “Well, I want the ones that are approved for medical use. I don’t need a mask to protect me from asbestos particles–I want one that works for Covid-19 particles.” I had a friend who knows something about this stuff, but she was delayed in getting here (some medical issues 1000 miles away) but when she got here I asked her about masks, and she told me N95s were the ones to get. It wasn;t until I got the box home that I saw that warning label again, leading to this thread.

Seems to me that folks should be able to get the good advice I’ve gotten here from the CDC, and everyone should be able to access a well-designed and thorough FAQ page on that site. I would have gotten an N95 mask weeks ago.

CDC On Masks

That’s only true if they have an outgoing vent. Without the vent, they’re highly effective at protecting others.

If you have one with a vent, you could put surgical mask over it. Kind of defeats the purpose of the vent though. I’ve found the ones with the vents aren’t much easier to breath with anyway.

From the CDC…

The CDC recommends that “In general, individuals wearing NIOSH-approved N95s with an exhalation valve should not be asked to use one without an exhalation valve or to cover it with a face covering or mask”.
From here.

ETA, the first CDC quote is from here.

Thanks. A quick glance at the section “Effective Masks” leaves several elementary questions unasked, such as the distinctions between various types of masks (N95, KN95) and how to read the label to make sure you’ve got one that’s been approved by the appropriate agency.

Some of these questions have been answered effectively here, as by Joey P. above, which raises the question “What are they doing at the CDC that’s more crucial than seeing that people know how, and where, to buy, and to wear, these masks that they’re always yammering about?”

I still don’t know if my mask sucks because it lacks one of those metal strips they say is important, and where to wear the top and bottom of mine is: it has a kind of styrofoam strip on the interior that either marks the top or the bottom of the mask. Or maybe it doesn’t matter if I wear it up near my eyes or down under my chin? In any case it would be nice to know and not to wonder.

The instructions this thing came with were in Chinese, btw, which I’m gonna need at least a few years to learn how to read.

Thanks, @Joey_P! I had never bothered to read any updates for purely selfish reasons. I hate N95’s vent or no vent. They’re not comfortable.

Here’s a list of NIOSH-approved N95’s at the CDC.

Some are not approved because the company wasn’t performing the proper quality-management testing. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the design is flawed or that they’re counterfeits. The FDA simply stopped approving them for emergency use for our medical personnel. In fact,

This is less alarming for laypersons than it is for medical professionals. An N95 mask that is not approved by NIOSH is still an effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and there are no additional health concerns associated with Shanghai Dasheng’s masks. In other words, its N95s are still better than not wearing a mask, and they won’t make you sick on their own.
The FDA and CDC just said to stop using certain N95 masks

This is different than complete counterfeits that have untrustworthy designs.

N95’s are supposed to be fitted anyway, so your masks may be good enough for your purposes. Remember, if you’re boosted and you are staying away from crowded, poorly-ventilated, indoor places, or working in healthcare, a mask with 70% effectiveness is probably good enough.

Update: I found English instructions (on the side of the box), and have canceled my Chinese lessons for the moment. I also found the metal strip, which told me which side was the top and which was the bottom of the mask. It was on the exterior where the styrofoam strip is on the interior, so I guess the styrofoam strip is padding.

As a mechanical engineer with a background in aerosol science, I often wondered why months into the pandemic we were still using cloth masks. …

So I embarked on a year-long mission to test, document, and review the best masks I could find. This eventually entailed building a mini aerosol laboratory in my bathroom, with scientific instruments capable of measuring particles 1/50,000th the width of a human hair.