CDC encourages more Americans to consider N95 and KN95 masks in some situations

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NEW YORK (AP) – US health officials on Friday encouraged more Americans to wear the N95 or KN95 masks used by health care workers to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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Such masks are considered better in filtering the air. But they were previously in short supply, and officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they should be prioritized for health care workers.

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In Updated Guidance Posted Late Friday, CDC Officials Addressed concerns regarding supply shortages and stated more clearly that properly fitted N95 and KN95 masks provide the most protection.

However, agency officials noted that some masks are harder to bear than others, and urged people to choose well-fitting masks that they would wear consistently.

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“Our main message is that any mask is better than no mask,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said in a statement.

The CDC has developed its own mask guidance during the pandemic.

In their last update in September, CDC officials got more excited about disposable N95 masks, saying they can be used in certain situations when supplies are available. Examples include being around many people for long periods of time on a train, bus or airplane; taking care of someone in poor health; or being more vulnerable to serious illness.

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On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that his administration plans to make “high-quality masks,” including N95s, available for free. He said more details were coming next week. The White House said the federal government has a stockpile of more than 750 million N95 masks.

The latest CDC guidance notes that there is a special class of “surgical N95” masks, specifically designed for protection against blood spills and other operating room hazards. The agency said they are not generally available for sale to the public, and should be reserved for health care workers.

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