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Some masks offer little protection against new COVID-19 variants

Single layer masks don't cut it. Proper masks need to be at least two to three layers, preferably with a filter. And making sure they fit right is key.

PORTLAND, Ore. — With new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus popping up in the U.S., it's more important than ever to not just wear a mask but to wear the right mask.

In fact, one expert says one isn't enough.

"I'm personally frustrated as heck that a year into this pandemic and in the United States we still don't have widespread N-95 masks for everybody," said Dr. Richard Corsi.  

Since the pandemic began the Portland State University and internationally recognized expert on indoor air quality has stressed the importance of wearing face coverings.

An he believes that by now, we should all have N-95 or KN-95 masks.

"I think they should be mailed to people's homes every week with instructions on when to use them," he said.

Even even the simple act of talking emits droplets. By wearing a mask, you minimize the amount of droplets emitted, even those tiny ones. But the amount of protection also depends on what kind of mask you are wearing.

"I think we need to be educating the public on multi-layered masks," Corsi said.

Single layer masks don't cut it. Proper masks need to be at least two to three layers, preferably with a filter. And making sure they fit right is key.

"You've seen these kind of plastic braces you can put over your mask to make it fit better and kind of seal to your face and apparently they can be quite effective," he said.

And when it comes to those cloth, bandana-type masks, Corsi said they're better than wearing nothing, but not by much.

"Bandanas, you get something on the order of maybe 20 percent effectiveness, if you're lucky, of removing aerosol particles from the air," Corsi said. "Probably the worst mask you can wear is a bandana."

As for those common blue surgical-looking masks? Corsi said he wears them when he goes for walks outdoors, however he does not think they protect you well enough indoors.

Corsi stressed that with these new variants popping up, proper mask wearing is more important than ever. The variants are more infectious. In other words, we don't need to inhale as many infected particles to get sick.

Corsi said while the vaccines are promising, the fact that the virus is mutating means it's critical we do everything in our power now to stop its spread.

"We need to do everything we can to starve this virus of its hosts," Corsi warned. "Otherwise we're looking down the road and this rosy scenario that by next fall all these wonderful things are going to happen and things might be closer to normal is all going to fall apart if we don't do this right."