What is the difference between cloth face masks, surgical face masks, and N95 face masks?

Cloth Face Masks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that people wear cloth face coverings in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, regardless of whether they have a fever or other COVID-19 symptoms. There is evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by people who don’t have symptoms. Wearing cloth masks helps slow the spread of the virus, which is primarily transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when we talk, cough or sneeze. The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in stores and other places where social distancing is hard to maintain, especially in areas where there is significant community-based transmission.

Surgical Masks

Surgical masks (also called medical masks) are loose-fitting, disposable coverings for the nose and mouth. They are intended to be worn by healthcare workers. They are fluid resistant and protect the wearer against large droplets, splashes and sprays, according to the CDC. They also capture the wearer’s respiratory droplets, helping to protect patients against contamination.

N95 Face Masks

Per the CDC, N95 Face Masks are not to be worn by the general public as protection from COVID-19. N95 face masks are intended to be tight-fitting. Normally, wearers must pass a “Fit Test” to confirm a proper seal before using one. Due to concerns about a shortage of fit-testing kits and test solutions, OSHA is encouraging employers to prioritize fit-testing for those who must use N95 face masks in high-hazard procedures such as when performing COVID-19 testing on patients, intubating or extubating patients, and treating patients in negative pressure isolation rooms.