Understanding the different types of masks to wear during COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As local officials and the CDC advised Americans to wear face coverings in public, the choices can seem a bit confusing for some to understand the differences.

The first type of mask you need to know to stay protected during COVID-19 is the N95. These mask are the ones healthcare workers desperately need.

"The N95 creates a seal around your face and so all the air you breathe actually goes through the mask itself," said Dr. Lawrence Livornese, and infectious disease specialist with Main Line Health.

N95 mask block 95 percent of tiny particles. Governor Wolf says the average person should not wear one of these, and should be saved for medical workers and first responders.

The next type is a surgical mask. Dr. Livornese says there's a key difference between these two types of personal protective equipment.

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"When I put a surgical mask on, this is pretty loose," said Dr. Livornese. "There's a pocket here I can put my finger in so air travels around the mask, so the N95 stops that potential airborne transmission."

For non-medical workers, the governor says people should be wearing cloth masks in public. They're not considered personal protective equipment, but experts say they're better than nothing.

"My cloth mask protects you and your cloth mask protects me," said Dr. Livornese.

The CDC says to make sure masks fit snugly around your face, include several layers of fabric, which are both breathable and washable. Additionally, for people who wear glasses, consider putting a tissue on the top inside of the mask to prevent fogging.

Starting Sunday at 8 p.m., no one will be allowed inside an essential business in Pennsylvania without a mask on. For people outside exercising, experts say use your best judgement to decided whether or not to wear one.

"If you're on Kelly Drive passing in a pack of people, that's where you wearing a mask will protect other individuals," said Dr. Livornese.
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