Are N95 masks with valves safe for COVID
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Are N95 masks with valves safe for COVID

Oct 11, 2023

The CDC says an N95 mask with a valve protects you and others from COVID-19. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)TNS

The Delta variant has become the dominant strain of COVID, now accounting for more than 93% of all cases in the U.S., mostly among the unvaccinated population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its mask guidance last month. The agency now recommends people in areas with "high" or "substantial" COVID-19 transmission should again wear masks indoors. Nearly two-thirds of counties in the U.S. have high or substantial transmission, according to CDC data, including all 21 in New Jersey.

But, are N95 face masks with valves safe for COVID-19 protection?

Yes, the CDC says an N95 mask with a valve protects you and others from COVID-19.

"A NIOSH-approved N95 filtering face piece respirator with an exhalation valve offers the same protection to the wearer as one that does not have a valve," according to the CDC. "As source control, findings from NIOSH research suggest that, even without covering the valve, N95 respirators with exhalation valves provide the same or better source control than surgical masks, procedure masks, cloth masks or fabric coverings."

An N95 mask "is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles," according to the FDA. Fit testing also is recommended to ensure a secure fit.

N95 masks were once difficult to find since they were in high-demand at the start of the pandemic, leading customers to shop for KN95 masks. But now plenty of N95 masks are now currently available.

KN95 masks are a cheaper alternative to N95 masks, as long as they "meet requirements similar to those set by CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for respirators," according to the CDC.

Several reputable merchants specialize in NIOSH-certified N95 and KN95 mask sales with reasonably fast shipping, notably companies like N95 Medical Supplies, N95MaskCo and Well Before.

Below is a roundup of where you can buy CDC-certified N95 and KN95 face masks if you decide you want to upgrade, along with disposable mask options.

Where to buy N95 face masks with valves online:

Where to buy N95 face masks in bulk online:

Where to buy single N95 face masks online:

Where to buy KN95 face masks in bulk online

Disposable face masks you can buy in bulk online:

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