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Masks are as important as ever to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, thanks to the rise of the highly infectious Omicron variant. And, while you might have tossed your old masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that all Americans — regardless of vaccination status — mask up indoors where there is substantial risk or high spread of COVID-19.
Still, it's tough to know which masks are the most effective.
We’re not talking about the cute fabric masks emblazoned with the name of your favorite band. We’re talking about KN95 masks — the ones the CDC specifically recommends you wear in high-risk situations (say, on public transportation) to protect from possible transmission. Powecom is one of the only masks recommended by the FDA, and they're $22 for 10 at Amazon.
And if you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping, of course. Not yet a member? No problem. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial here. (And by the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on orders of $25 or more.)
“N95s?” you ask. Close, but not exactly. N-95 masks are the next level up from KN95s, but they should still be reserved for healthcare workers. That’s why buying KN95 masks is the smart move.
Does the brand matter? Yes, according to the FDA, it does. Read more on this below.
Understanding the N95 / KN95 connection
KN95 masks are very similar to N-95 masks, Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. In fact, during the early days of the pandemic when medical-grade masks were in particularly short supply, the FDA granted what’s known as ‘emergency use authorization’ for KN95 masks — meaning they could be used in hospitals.
But not all brands of KN95 masks are created equal. Recently, after researching effectiveness, the FDA removed its emergency use authorization for several manufacturers of KN95 masks. Powecom masks made it through the tests. They’re approved by the FDA and officially included on the FDA Emergency Use Authorization List. Like the others on the list, the Powecom KN95 mask is confirmed to filter out 95 percent of particles or more.
Not sure where to look? “If your source for a KN95 mask is reliable, you should be fine,” explains Dr. Schaffner. The good ones are “comparable to the N95 masks that we use,” he says.
“The basic difference [between N95 and KN95 masks] is regulatory,” says Dr. Kavita Patel, managing director of clinical transformation at The Brookings Institution’s Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform. “KN95 masks are approved by Chinese regulators, and in theory they are similar to N95 masks, which are approved by the FDA — but are also likely to be manufactured in China.”
Do you need to wear a Powecom KN95 mask all the time?
Our experts tell Yahoo Life that three-ply disposable masks or cloth masks should do the job when you’re outdoors and keeping at least six feet away from others. But KN95 masks by Powecom offer more protection and are protective in riskier situations — if you’re flying, for example, or taking a bus or train.
These masks have a three-dimensional design that makes it easier to breathe if you need to keep your mask on for long periods. Made of soft cotton, the masks have elastic ear loops and a metal strip for a snug fit over the nose.
Keep in mind that wearing a mask doesn’t mean you should stop practicing known methods of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Getting vaccinated and boosted, social distancing and frequent, thorough hand-washing are critical. Explains Dr. Schaffner, “We do these things in combination, not in isolation.”
KN95 masks that are approved with the FDA’s emergency-use authorization are actually hard to find these days. So stick with best practices and secure some Powecom KN95 masks for higher-risk settings. You’ll be taking great care of yourself and others.
Amazon shoppers love them, too
One diligent shopper personally checked the efficacy of the masks, writing: "These masks passed all three tests for effectiveness. I did the water test, and it did not leak. I did the blowing-out-the-candle test, and I could not blow out the flame. Lastly, I did the light test: I held the mask up to the light, and the mask was a uniform thickness, not blotchy. According to the CDC, if a mask passes these tests, then it is effective. I also feel like there is a good seal around the edges of the mask. It is more comfortable than an N95. I can wear this mask all day at work."
Another shared: "I was in a car with someone whom I did not know was COVID-positive at the time, for three hours (family emergency)," she writes. "I wore this mask and he wore a typical, thinner blue mask. He had been exposed a few days before and tested positive a few days later. All of my tests have been negative."
Even teachers swear by them: "Once we became a COVID hot zone I got these for my job as a teacher," one shared. "These are literally the only masks that don’t fall down when I speak or muffle my voice."
Want to check out your options? Here are other excellent KN95 masks available:
These three-dimensional versions are thick and durable, and you get five on sale for $14 right now.
“I feel so much safer with this over a basic cloth face mask,” says a shopper. “My intended purpose was to wear these exclusively when I go grocery shopping and run other errands where I know I will be in close proximity to other people, but have found myself just wearing it everywhere I go. Happy with this purchase.”
Shop it: SupplyAID KN95 Masks, 5-Pack, $14 (was $16), amazon.com
Want to buy in bulk and eliminate the stress of restocking? This 50-pack is for you. Each mask has a roomy breathing area, a metal nose bridge for a snug fit, and folds for easy storage.
“Tested masks in heavy smoke of CA fires — they do not let any smoke smell in, which is a great test, because smoke is the smallest particle and only N95s work for it. At the same time, they allow easy breathing,” says a satisfied shopper.
Shop it: N95 Mask Co. KN95 Face Mask, 50-Pack, $130 (was $150), n95maskco.com
Looking for more great Amazon deals? Check these out:
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Apple AirPods Pro, $190 (was $249), amazon.com
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