Which mask is best to help protect from COVID-19?

The CDC says it won't recommend a specific type of mask as the omicron variant spreads. Since there's a lot of confusion, we asked the experts at Cleveland Clinic to see, besides the N-95 mask, what they recommend and why.

As the omicron variant continues to spread, new questions are surfacing about which kind of mask is best when it comes to protecting yourself.

“There are multiple studies that have shown that surgical masks are better than just cloth masks,” said Dr. Abhijit Duggal, a critical care specialist for Cleveland Clinic. “So, if you want some more protection, surgical masks, which are the right size for you and you can pinch the mask appropriately, would be the recommendation for people.”

Duggal said cloth masks can work too, but they should have at least two layers and can adequately cover your nose and mouth.

However, he advises against wearing gaiters or bandanas since they are loose-fitting.

As far as the N95 and KN95 masks go, he said those are the most effective, but they’re not necessarily needed for the general public. They are typically only used in healthcare settings.

Duggal wanted to point out that while masks can help provide protection from the virus, nothing can replace the vaccine.

“This is one of those things that we hear all the time, ‘Well there’s vaccinated people getting the virus too.’ Yes, some vaccinated people might get the infection, but the overwhelming number of patients who get the infection are people who are not vaccinated,” said Duggal.

He said it’s also important to avoid regularly touching your mask once you put it on, as that can be a way to spread germs. If you have to take it off, use the ear loops on the sides of the mask.