Which face masks are most effective?

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – After months of going through the coronavirus pandemic, the nation has come to terms with the importance of wearing face masks when they are within six feet of other people and cannot be socially distanced, as recommended by the CDC.

However, some people may not know which masks are effective, and which masks are not.

According to recent studies bandanas, handkerchiefs, fleece balaclavas, and neck gaiters offered very little protection, while N95 respirators, surgical masks, and even homemade cloth masks performed better.

“The CDC recommends that you wear a cloth mask, that it be at least two layers thick because that affords more protection. They recommend that anyone under two years old of age, does not wear a mask, and most importantly they are recommending that you wear the mask properly,” said Roberta Speroni, the Director of Infection Prevention at Arnot Ogden Medical Center.

“Certain types of masks have been found to be ineffective, so these include masks that have exhalation valves or vents because your air is going out of that vent, so you may be protecting yourself somewhat, but you’re not protecting the people around you,” said Speroni.


KN95- Most Effective

The KN95 is equivalent to the N95. It’s not commonly available within the community. It is the most effective type of mask.

N95 MASK-Effective

The N95 mask would be primarily used by people in the healthcare industry, especially if they take care of COVID-19 patients or perform certain procedures.


The surgical or the isolation mask is going to be available both within the community and this is what Arnot would offer to any patients or visitors that would enter our facilities that may not have a mask or a mask that is not deemed effective.

FACE SHIELD- Effective when wearing a face mask

The face shield is effective only if worn with a mask underneath. Some health professionals also choose to wear goggles with a mask while working, instead.

CLOTH MASK- Not effective with thin material

A cloth mask without two layers and that has exhalation valves is thin and air can easily pass through it, which makes it not very effective.

NECK GAITER- Least effective

The neck gaiter is a very thin material, so droplets could easily pass in between this type of material and there are openings to the material. It’s easy for airflow to get in through the material which makes it’s least effective.

Arnot Odgen Medical Center will be putting new signs in all of their system facility’s entrances notifying patients and visitors of the mask requirement and offering surgical masks if they don’t have a mask or one of the unacceptable masks based on their protocols.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that you wear masks in public settings around people who don’t live in your household and when you can’t stay 6 feet away from others.

According to the CDC:

  • Wear masks with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19
  • Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
  • Masks should be worn by people two years and older
  • Masks should NOT be worn by children younger than two, people who have trouble breathing, or people who cannot remove the mask without assistance
  • Do NOT wear masks intended for healthcare workers, for example, N95 respirators
  • CDC does not recommend the use of gaiters or face shields. Evaluation of these face covers is on-going but effectiveness is unknown at this time.

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