How often can you safely reuse your KN95 or N95 mask?


Surging coronavirus cases in the United States, driven by the highly contagious omicron variant, have prompted renewed recommendations from health experts that the public should consider wearing more protective face coverings, such as N95 or KN95 masks.

President Biden also said his administration is working on making such higher-quality masks more widely available.

“Next week, we’ll announce how we are making high-quality masks available to the American people for free,” Biden said Thursday. “I know we all wish that we could finally be done with wearing masks. I get it. But they are a really important tool to stop the spread, especially of the highly transmittable omicron variant.”

The administration noted this week that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “recommends Americans wear a well-fitting mask.” Biden acknowledged Thursday that “for some Americans, the mask is not always affordable or convenient to get.”

Finding reliable masks online can be tricky. Here are tips that can help.

Health experts say while there are no hard and fast rules, there are best practices for safely getting multiple uses out of N95s or KN95s.

On Jan. 13, President Biden said his administration will announce a plan to make “high-quality masks available to American people for free." (Video: The Washington Post)

Masks and covid-19: Explaining the latest guidance

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant. Here’s some guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

Variants: Instead of a single new Greek letter variant, a group of immune-evading omicron spinoffs are popping up all over the world. Any dominant variant will likely knock out monoclonal antibodies, targeted drugs that can be used as a treatment or to protect immunocompromised people.

Tripledemic: Hospitals are overwhelmed by a combination of respiratory illnesses, staffing shortages and nursing home closures. And experts believe the problem will deteriorate further in coming months. Here’s how to tell the difference between RSV, the flu and covid-19.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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