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Not all face coverings are equal — tips to choose the safest one as new variants emerge

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) ---Nearly one year into the pandemic, wearing a face covering has become the new norm. Still, not all face masks are created equal. As new Covid-19 variants spread across the United States, some health officials are now encouraging Americans to consider wearing two face masks at once.

Various styles of face coverings have various levels of protection. In a column this fall for the Wall Street Journal, former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Scott Gottlieb suggested some cloth masks were only 30% protective, while some scarves and bandanas may be 10% protective. This 2020 study found surgical masks to be roughly 50% effective at protecting the individual wearing it from other people's aerosols.

ABC-7 put several to the test: wearing them while attempting to blow out the flame on a lighter. While wearing an N95 mask, a surgical mask or a thick cloth mask, the flame would not blow out. While wearing a thinner cloth mask or a scarf, the flame blew out easily.

For those who decide to wear just one cloth mask, there are a few ways to ensure more protection.

"Wearing a mask is better than not wearing a mask in any scenario," said Dr. Armando Meza, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. "If you are going to take the maximum protection, wear a mask with at least three layers of protection, three pieces of clothing or any kind of material, and make it fit as snuggly as possible in your face and in your mouth."

The CDC also recommends washing a reusable face covering after each use and throwing out a disposable mask after each use. The CDC also encourages individuals to avoid touching the surface of their mask and to wash their hands if they do.

Madeline Ottilie

Madeline Ottilie is a reporter on Good Morning El Paso and co-anchors ABC-7 at noon.

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