Unlike people, all masks are not created equal. The CDC's decision to relax source-control mask policies for people who have been vaccinated, at a time when 50% of Americans (including children) are not yet vaccinated has many concerned. The rise of several concerning variants, such as Delta, makes the use of "protective" masks CRITICAL for people who have either not yet received the vaccine, or even if vaccinated, 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 "protective" 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 distinguishes "protective" masks from "source control" masks, and divides the former into two categories based on level of protection as noted below:

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

You do not need this type of mask for most everyday situations. These are great choices, however, for any circumstance where you may be in any forced proximity for any duration of time indoors with anybody not wearing source-control face coverings (e.g., such as air travel, public transportation, massage, crowded public events, etc.). Respirator masks have a tighter fit than the Category 2 ear-loop masks, and go over the head or behind the neck. Take care to ensure proper fit (See April's videos or other online resources for tips to ensure proper fit).

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

These ear-loop masks still offer protection, though less than any Category 1 respirator mask, which April recommends for close contact situations. These are ideal for offices, classrooms, churches, grocery stores, waiting room environments, and indoor social environments where others may or may not be wearing a face covering. Rank-ordered by level of protection, and all excellent everyday 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)
  • HaloMasks (N-99 quality filters, exteriors can be washed)
  • Honeywell Masks (N-97 quality filters, exteriors can be washed)
  • Vida KN-95 Disposable Masks (FDA-registered, these are not intended for long-term use, but with proper care, can be reused in everyday situations)
  • Cambridge Masks (N-95 quality filters, use the head strap to achieve a tighter seal)

(April encourages business leaders and educators to consider making disposable "protective" masks, such as KN-95 or KF-94 ear loop masks, available at cost on premises for people coming to your place of business indoors and who may wish to take extra precautions. Be sure to verify that the mask brand and model you order is FDA-approved).

"BEST FOR..."

Best for Kids

  • HappyMasks (N-99 quality filter in an ear loop mask; entire mask is the filter, like a KN-95 mask, and can be washed)
  • HaloMasks (N-99 quality filters, exteriors can be washed, comes in a wider array of sizes)

Best for the Gym

  • *N-100 Stealth Mask respirators (NIOSH-certified) - View April's review of the Stealth N-100 respirator here - this mask is 100% washable and reusable - if you have not yet been vaccinated, April recommends this mask for the gym if you are in any close contact or enclosed indoor space with others
  • HappyMasks (N-99 quality filter in an ear loop mask; entire mask is the filter, like a KN-95 mask, and can be washed) - this is comfortable and washable, and a great choice for people who have been vaccinated but wish to take extra precautions (such as parents of kids under age 12 who cannot yet be vaccinated)

Best for the Hair Salon

  • *RZ M2 N-99 respirators (NIOSH certification pending) - this mask offers outstanding protection and has a neck strap that fits behind the neck.
  • Any Category 2 mask

Best for Getting a Massage

  • *N-100 Stealth Mask respirators (NIOSH-certified) - View April's review of the Stealth N-100 respirator here - this mask has a removable neck strap while retaining its tight fit. It also offers superior breathability (April notes that you will look and sound like Darth Vader, but you will be safe).

Best for Running Errands

  • HappyMasks (N-99 quality filter in an ear loop mask; entire mask is the filter, like a KN-95 mask, and can be washed) - the grab-and-go aspect of this mask makes it a great go-to mask for daily errands

Best for Public Transportation or Air Travel

  • Any Category 1 mask - this is a situation of potentially prolonged forced proximity. For this reason, April recommends choosing a respirator mask.

"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.

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.