How Much Protection Do These Face Masks Offer?
As we continue to remain in lockdown for the second month, we urge everyone to continue their efforts in protecting themselves and others by staying home and taking preventative actions. Now that it's been proven that face masks help minimize the growing cases of COVID-19, it’s important to differentiate what each face mask offers.
Let's start with the most protective face masks, the N95, KN95, and KF94 respiratory face masks. When looking at features most people care about, these three masks are equal in efficacy. The codes represent each country’s standard for the face mask; N95 for the US, KN95 for China, and KF94 for South Korea’s. N95 and KN95 have a 95% filter performance while KF94 has a 94% filter performance. These percentages measure how well it performs against 0.3-micron sized particles. However, that’s not to say it isn’t effective with smaller particles. If there is minimal to no virus contamination or germs, N95, KN95, and KF94 masks can be reused if following a 72-hour rotation strategy.
Differences Between Respirator Face Masks
When delving into other features of the mask, KN95 produced in China requires a fit and leakage test while N95 does not. N95 has slightly stricter requirements for pressure drop meaning it is superior in breathability.
Korea’s number of COVID-19 cases have been dropping to record low levels every day. South Korea’s government has been supplying their citizens with KF94 masks from local pharmacies and through mail delivery since the early outbreak of the pandemic. Looking at the pressure drop for inhalation and exhalation, KF94 is slightly less breathable than both N95 and KN95.
Surgical masks are loose-fitted, meant to help prevent splashes, larger particles and droplets from entering the wearer’s mouth and nose. Level of protection varies depending on the type of material used by the manufacturer. Wearing them may help people who are asymptomatic from spreading it to others. These are disposable masks that should not be reused.
Following all these preventative measures are essential:
1. Only go out if you’re an essential worker or if you HAVE to do groceries.
2. Keep six feet social distance if you MUST interact with someone.
3. Wash your hands for 20 seconds after contact with any potentially contaminated surface.
4. Wear a cloth face covering or an FDA authorized face mask if you’re a front-line worker.
The bottom line is that N95, KN95 and KF94 respiratory masks offer almost identical protection. Many brands of various industries are also producing reusable fashion masks that are worth looking into. It's a tough time for many of us and "better safe than sorry" is more relevant than ever before.
Stay safe and be healthy!