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Delta variant renews push for masks: How to choose the right one and wear it correctly

With the highly contagious delta variant continuing to fuel a spike in coronavirus cases, there’s a renewed focus on masks.

With the highly contagious delta variant continuing to fuel a spike in coronavirus cases, there’s a renewed focus on masks. It’s not just about wearing one, but wearing one that offers the most protection and wearing it correctly. 

One health professional with Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital says there’s an even stronger push for masks now than there was at the start of the summer for a number of reasons: growing cases of the delta variant, more infections in children and multiple breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated people. 

Pediatrician Dr. Dan McGee takes us back to the basics and says, “Different masks provide different levels of protection.”

He pulled out the different types of masks many of us are used to seeing.

“There’s the simple paper mask, which we’re all familiar with. There is the cloth mask for people that are trying to make a fashion statement, and then we have – this is one variation of – the N95 mask that’s out,” said the doctor, who adds that not every cloth mask is made the same.

He says, “The problem with cloth masks is there’s so much variability in the weave of the cloth, how many layers of cloth they use, that there’s really not a lot of consistency.”

N95 masks are considered the best choice because, “The N95 filters out the most viral particles of all,” said Dr. McGee. 

Still, he also says, any mask will work so long as it passes the “candle test” made popular by a viral Bill Nye video on Tik Tok.

It says, if you cannot blow out a candle while wearing a mask, you’re protected. As a matter of fact, in the video, all three types of masks we’ve mentioned pass the test. However, you can also see how using a scarf as a face covering, for example, will not offer sufficient protection.

Then, there’s making sure you’re wearing the mask correctly.

“It annoys me when you see people walking around with the mask like this," Dr. McGee says while showing a mask covering the mouth but not the nose.  "This does no good because we get -- the virus is in your nose. So, if you’re not covering up your nose, you’re not doing a good job. 

"You need to cover your chin and your nose with the mask, like this, and you can keep it from fogging up if you wear glasses just by pinching down on the nose piece,” said Dr. McGee, who is simply asking people, “Yeah, don’t wear a chin diaper.”

When asked if there’s any particular guidance on the best type of mask for children, Dr. McGee says any mask is better than no mask.

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