The Latest Face Mask Guidance for Travel: N95s, Double Masking, and More

In the early days of the pandemic, face masks went from being exclusively reserved for healthcare workers to a blanket recommendation for the general population in a matter of months. Now, nearly two years later, our understanding of which types of face masks offer true protection has changed greatly—and has continually been revised as new waves and variants come along.

As the nation is dealing with a record-breaking winter surge, masking has become more essential than ever—and most notably, the kinds of masks needed to stave off the current variant have evolved. “As we learn more about the heightened transmissibility of Omicron, it’s become clear that improved mask filtration standards are needed to mitigate transmission,” Peter Rebeiro, a Vanderbilt University infectious diseases and epidemiology professor, says. “That’s why it’s time to upgrade to N95 or KN95/KN94 standard masks instead of cloth masks.”

We know that masks help limit the spread of COVID-19 by protecting from small droplets or particles that you could cough, sneeze, or breathe out and potentially infect someone with. Research has shown that it's possible to spread COVID-19—especially the Omicron variant—even if you are asymptomatic or vaccinated.