Higher-Grade Masks Beginning To Be Required In Public Places Across U.S.


With experts warning that cloth masks are insufficient to protect against the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant of coronavirus, some counties, universities and museums around the United States have begun to require higher-grade masks indoors.

Key Facts

Salt Lake County in Utah, home to Salt Lake City, instituted a 30-day mask mandate last week that requires wearing respirator-grade masks like N95s, KN95s or KF94s in indoor public areas, and Los Angeles County is requiring businesses to provide employees working indoors with surgical masks, well-fitting medical grade masks or respirators like the KN95.

The Los Angeles County Health Department said these “upgraded masks are better at blocking virus particles” than cloth masks; N95 or KN95 masks block out at least 95% of small omicron particles, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles on Tuesday began requiring visitors to wear surgical, KF94, KN95 or N95 face masks, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City is also requiring visitors to wear a three-ply cotton or surgical face mask or an N95 or equivalent mask.

Key Background

The policy changes come with the U.S. setting pandemic records for Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, with 145,982 patients hospitalized on Tuesday and 1.4 million new cases of Covid-19 recorded Monday. Cities including Atlanta and New Orleans have brought back indoor mask mandates, and some states like Connecticut have announced that they will distribute free N95 masks to residents. Preliminary studies have shown that the omicron variant is more transmissible than the delta variant, though it appears to have milder symptoms than previous variants.

Big Number

750,996. That’s the seven-day rolling average of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. as of Monday, according to the CDC’s tracker, the highest level yet.


White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said in a press briefing Wednesday that the Biden Administration is “strongly considering options to make high-quality masks available to all Americans.” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky suggested that the agency isn’t planning to change its current mask guidelines to recommend higher-grade masks like N95.

Further Reading

N95, KN95 Or Cloth Masks? What To Wear To Best Protect Against Omicron (Forbes)

White House ‘Strongly Considering’ Giving Out N95 Masks — But CDC Still Not Changing Guidelines To Recommend Them (Forbes)

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimberleespeakman/2022/01/12/higher-grade-masks-beginning-to-be-required-in-public-places-across-us/