Virginia Tech researcher: Cloth masks not effective against Omicron variant

Posted at 11:10 AM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 11:10:46-05

BLACKSBURG, Va. - They come in different colors and designs, but new research shows cloth face masks may not be as effective at protecting against the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Dr. Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, studies how viruses move through the air. She said cloth masks are only about 50% effective in protecting against infected particles — good enough for earlier forms of COVID-19, but not against the more transmissible Omicron variant.

"We have special masks called respirators, such as N95 that offer much greater protection. They're able to block 95 percent of particles that are either going out of your mouth or that you're breathing in," Marr told CBS News. "Things like the KN95, which is the Chinese version of us the N95 it has ear loop straps and it's made out of a special material that's very efficient at filtering out particles."

Marr also suggests using three-ply surgical masks for protection, but make sure they fit correctly.

"One way is to use some little kind of clips or toggles on the ear loops so that you can tighten it up so it pulls closer to your face," she said.

A good fit is crucial to any mask a person is going to wear, she says. For kids, comfort is also key, but keep in mind N95 masks are not designed for young children so another respirator mask might be the way to go.

Click HERE for a list of approved respirator masks from the Centers for Disease Control.