Unlike people, all masks are not created equal. The CDC's decision to relax source-control mask policies for people who have been vaccinated makes the use of "protective" masks CRITICAL for people who have either not yet received the vaccine, or who do not wish to take any chances of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. April has LONG URGED everyday people who wish to protect themselves from COVID-19 to upgrade their masks and use "protective" masks - not just "source control-only" masks. This is even more important as source-control mask policies fade.

Below is a curated collection of REUSABLE masks that will protect you (the wearer), while not taking away from supplies our healthcare providers still need. All of the below masks are either NIOSH-certified or have filters certified by Nelson Labs, which performs NIOSH testing - and meet April's stringent standards for safety and value.

April advises people to think about masks "the way you pick gear for weather - choose your mask based on the situation." Watch her "Masks 101" video for more information and demonstration of proper fit. She does not have a commercial relationship with any of these providers.

"PROTECTIVE" MASKS - April groups these into two categories based on level of protection

Category 1 (you are safest in these, when in close contact with others who are not wearing a mask)

Choose one of these when you cannot 100% control your environment. These are great choices if you may be in any forced proximity for any duration of time that exceeds 10 cumulative minutes with anybody not wearing source-control face coverings (e.g., such as air travel, public transportation, massage, crowded public events, etc.). Rank-ordered by level of protection, and all outstanding choices. Take care to ensure proper fit (See April's videos or other online resources for tips to ensure proper fit).

  • *N-100 and N-99 Stealth Masks (NIOSH-certified) - See April's review of the Stealth N-100 respirator here!
  • *RZ N-99 respirators (NIOSH certification pending) - buy the valve caps
  • *N-95 respirators (NIOSH-certified) - hardware stores carry non-surgical respirators, ones with valves are fine - see below note

*For valved masks: Simply double-mask (place a cotton mask OVER the valved respirator mask), cap or tape off valved respirators to comply with rules prohibiting valved masks so that they are also source-control masks.

Category 2 (Great everyday choices, filters tested by Nelson Labs)

Choose one of these when you may need to be in shared space for any duration of time, when you desire extra protection against any respiratory virus, whether or not others are wearing a face covering. These are ideal for offices, classrooms, churches or waiting room environments. Rank-ordered by level of protection, and all excellent choices.

  • HappyMasks (N-99 quality filter in an ear loop mask; entire mask is the filter, like a KN-95 mask, and can be washed)
  • Honeywell Masks (N-97 quality filters)
  • HaloMasks
  • Cambridge Masks (use the head strap to achieve a tighter seal; be aware you may need to show that you have sealed off the valve )

(Businesses, clergy and educators may wish to make disposable "protective" masks, such as KN-95 or KF-94 ear loop masks, available at no charge or at cost. Be sure to verify that the mask brand and model you order is FDA-approved).

"SOURCE CONTROL" MASKS

Surgical masks and cloth face coverings are "source control" masks. Used alone, they are NOT protective of the wearer.

"Double-masking" (wearing a surgical mask under or over a multi-layer face covering) may offer extra protection and is now being recommended by public health officials as a way to make these options more protective - however, even this is not as protective as wearing a "protective" category mask. Many source-control mask options have pockets for insertable filters. While these filters will add some level of protection, it is important to realize these are still "source-control" masks and not "protective" category masks.

The primary value of source control masks is to stop the spread of coronavirus (in this case) at the "source" - in this case, potentially infectious respiratory droplets emitted by your nose and mouth. Source control masks primarily protect others from you and vice versa, but offer limited protection to you as the wearer. Source control masks as a public strategy works best when everybody is wearing them, which everybody is NOT, which is why April urges people who desire extra protection (whether or not you have been vaccinated) to wear "protective" masks when possible in any public setting.

TRAVEL GEAR

NOTE: No, you do not need to travel in a HAZMAT suit, but April does strongly recommend traveling in a "protective" mask, even if you have been vaccinated, if you desire to stay safe from any of the eight major respiratory viruses that are readily transmitted in tight public spaces such as travel environments. April recommends adding eye protection for people who desire extra protection in places where you may be in forced proximity with others for any duration of time in a closed environment (such as public transportation, including airplanes).

  • Travel Goggles or any goggles that "seal off" the eyes, including chemical, ski, or swim goggles, etc. (for use with any protective mask - better than a face shield because they "seal off" the eyes)
  • 3M P100 full face respirator (a little extreme, but an option if you don't want to deal with separate mask and goggles)

Watch the Demo

In this video you will learn about:

  • Two major categories of masks: "Source Control" and "Protective"
  • Examples of protective masks that do not take away from the supplies our healthcare providers need
  • How to ensure proper fit to help you stay safe in circumstances where you may be in close contact with others.