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  • People across the country have realized that regular cloth face coverings and 3-ply masks don’t provide enough protection against COVID-19.
  • Unfortunately, there’s still a huge shortage of N95 masks in the United States, which is terrible news as the novel coronavirus continues to spread.
  • Powecom KN95 face masks and AccuMed KN95 masks are the best respirators you can get right now when considering both quality and value.
  • In this article, we’ll explain why these KN95 masks are better choices than any other masks — including 3M N95 masks.

The coronavirus pandemic was certainly a shock to everyone’s system since most of us have never experienced anything like this in our lifetimes. It has now been about a year since the first COVID-19 cases were reported though, so we all know what we’re facing. More importantly, we all know what we have to do in order to protect ourselves.

There is a special coronavirus website created by the CDC that has plenty of information pertaining to how we can avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person in droplets or aerosols that are exhaled by people carrying the disease. Therein lies the danger with the novel coronavirus, of course: A person who is a carrier won’t necessarily appear to be sick all the time.

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AccuMed Face Mask, Black (10 Count) Price: Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now

In many cases, people who catch COVID-19 become infectious two days before the onset of symptoms. That means even though they’re completely unaware that they are sick, they’re still capable of spreading the coronavirus to anyone around them. Making matters worse is the fact many cases of COVID-19 are completely asymptomatic. In those cases, the person who is sick doesn’t exhibit any noticeable symptoms at all. This person will remain completely unaware of the infection unless it’s confirmed by a PCR test, but he or she is still capable of spreading the disease to others.

Long story short, every single person you encounter is a potential coronavirus spreader, and wearing a face mask is the best way to protect yourself from catching COVID-19.

In the early days of the pandemic, all face masks were in short supply. For that reason, people were advised to use any face coverings they could get their hands on. While it’s true that anything is better than nothing, we now all know that basic cloth masks don’t provide as much protection as we want. This interactive webpage created by The New York Times does the best job of explaining why medical-grade face masks like N95 masks and KN95 masks are so much better than cloth face coverings and basic 3-ply masks.

Because of that, and because experts believe life won’t even begin to go back to normal until sometime in late 2021, it’s time to stock up on high-quality face masks that give you and your family the best possible protection from this potentially deadly disease.

What’s the best kind of face mask you can get?

Most people are under the impression that N95 masks from companies like 3M and Honeywell are the gold standard in respiratory protection. While it’s true that N95 masks and other NIOSH-approved respirators offer excellent protection against the novel coronavirus and other airborne pathogens, there are two main reasons why you shouldn’t buy N95 masks.

First, let’s focus on the socially responsible reason to avoid N95 face masks. As reported recently by The Wall Street Journal reports, the United States’ supply of N95 face masks is running critically low. Healthcare workers and other people fighting COVID-19 on the front lines are in desperate need of these professional-grade masks. Every box of N95 masks you purchase is a box of N95 masks that isn’t available to essential workers who are running themselves ragged treating and otherwise assisting patients infected with COVID-19. They put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis, and the least we can do to thank them is to help ensure that they have access to as many N95 masks as possible.

Next, we’ll discuss the selfish reason not to buy N95 masks: they’re ridiculously expensive. Unscrupulous online sellers who manage to secure N95 masks despite not being official distributors charge astronomical prices. We’ve seen boxes of 3M N95 masks that typically cost $25-$30 selling for as much as $270. It’s obscene, and you shouldn’t let your fear of catching COVID-19 drive you to overspend and reward these crooks.

And besides, there’s another option that’s just as good for a fraction of the price.

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AccuMed Face Mask, Black (10 Count) Price: Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now

The main benefit of using N95 masks as opposed to other medical-grade and professional-grade face masks is this: the companies that manufacture N95 masks have something to back up their efficacy claims. NIOSH, which is short for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is a federal agency that puts face masks and other protective equipment through rigorous tests. In doing so, the agency confirms that a face mask indeed meets the quality and efficacy requirements in order to carry the N95 designation. For those unaware, the 95 in “N95” means that a mask filters at least 95% of airborne particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter or larger.

In searching for face masks to use during the coronavirus pandemic, you’ve probably also come across masks labeled “KN95.” It is important to note that KN95 masks and N95 masks are not the same. The US-based NIOSH agency certifies N95 masks, while KN95 masks are under the jurisdiction of a Chinese agency and are manufactured in accordance with a different performance standard. Genuine KN95 masks are still at least 95% effective at filtering airborne 0.3-micron particles, which is important to note. But there are hundreds upon hundreds of different face masks that claim to be KN95 masks, and most people are unable to tell which are authentic and which are just cheap face masks with “KN95” stamped on them.

Thankfully, there’s a way to get some added assurance that the KN95 face mask you’re using filters as well as the manufacturer claims.

Because N95 masks are in such short supply during the coronavirus pandemic, the FDA did something it doesn’t normally do. It decided to have a number of popular KN95 masks from large manufacturers certified for emergency use in the United States. NIOSH handled the testing, of course, and a number of KN95 masks ended up being authorized. By purchasing KN95 masks that are included on the FDA’s emergency use authorization (EUA) list, you can rest assured that your mask exceeds the 95% minimum efficacy that N95 masks achieve.

Which KN95 masks are best?

There are a few different FDA-authorized face masks that are widely available online, but Powecom KN95 face masks are by far the most popular for two main reasons.

First, Powecom’s KN95 masks rank among the best KN95 respirators that NIOSH tested in terms of performance. You’ll find them on the EUA list as Guangzhou Baoweikang (Powecom) Personal Protection Equipment Co., Ltd., and according to NIOSH’s test results, these KN95 masks filter between 99.2% and 99.4% of airborne 0.3-micron particles. That not only puts them on par with NIOSH-approved N95 masks from companies like 3M, Moldex, Milwaukee, and Honeywell, it means Powecom’s masks actually outperform most N95 masks. Simply put, this is the best protection you can get, according to NIOSH’s testing.

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The other reason Powecom masks are so popular is just as important: they’re very inexpensive compared to N95 masks. A 10-pack of Powecom KN95 face masks retails for $45, which makes the per-mask price $4.50. That’s already less expensive than most N95 masks these days, but you won’t pay anywhere near that much if you buy them on Amazon. As you can see above, Amazon is offering a very deep discount on Powecom masks right now, so it’s a terrific time to stock up.

Another great option is the AccuMed KN95 mask, and there are a few different reasons to consider it instead of or in addition to Powecom masks.

AccuMed’s masks are manufactured by Gaomi Chenheng Labor Protection Supplies Co., Ltd., and you’ll find them on the EUA list as well. NIOSH’s testing found that these masks filter up to 98% of 0.3-micron particles, which is once again beyond that 95% threshold that is mandated for both N95 and KN95 masks. Unlike Powecom masks, however, AccuMed offers some variety.

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Powecom KN95 masks are white in color and they have elastic loops that go behind your ears. Importantly, many people find behind-the-ear masks to be quite uncomfortable. It’s also much less secure than the alternative, which is elastic loops that go behind your head. That’s why AccuMed also offers KN95 masks with headbands instead of ear loops.

Additionally, AccuMed offers its face masks in a few different colors. On top of standard white masks like the Powecom KN95s, you can also get either of AccuMed’s KN95 masks in black or even pink.

AccuMed Face Mask (Headband) (10 Count) Price: Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now

How do I make sure I’m wearing my mask properly?

Proper use of a KN95 mask or any other mask isn’t as simple as just putting it on and taking it off.

It’s crucial to ensure that your mask is being worn properly and that there are no gaps on the sides or around the bridge of your nose. We’re sure you’ve seen people walking around with those blue 3-ply masks that look like surgical masks, and they have the mask pulled down on the nose or even completely beneath the nose. It should go without saying that this renders the mask ineffective. Any air that can get past the mask will be completely unfiltered. Likewise, any exhaled air that escapes from the top or sides of the mask is unfiltered.

If you’re healthy, a poor fit on your mask increases your risk of contracting COVID-19. And if you’re sick, an ill-fitting mask increases the risk that you’ll infect people around you. Remember, just because you’re not exhibiting symptoms does not mean you’re coronavirus-free. As we mentioned earlier, presymptomatic and asymptomatic people can still spread this potentially deadly disease without even knowing it.

Even if you’ve been wearing face masks every day since the coronavirus pandemic began and you think you’re an expert, you should still check out the CDC’s website that explains how to properly wear a face mask. Better yet, take a look at the video embedded below to see exactly how it’s done.

Can I reuse my masks or clean them?

The question of whether or not disposable masks should be reused has sparked plenty of debate among doctors, scientists, and other experts. Rather than run through all the different arguments out there, we’re going to give you a basic idea of best practices.

Disposable respirators like N95 masks and KN95 masks are called “disposable” for a reason: they’re designed to be worn once and then discarded. That’s what manufacturers recommend, and that’s how face masks should be used under normal circumstances. Of course, a global pandemic most certainly does not qualify as normal circumstances.

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AccuMed Face Mask (Headband) (10 Count) Price: Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now

Most disposable N95 and KN95 respirators are designed and tested to be effective for between 8 and 12 hours of use. If you use a face mask beyond that period of time, the manufacturer can no longer guarantee its efficacy. That said, respirators don’t start falling apart after 8 or 12 hours.

Here’s what the CDC says on its website about extended use of respirators during a pandemic:

Practices allowing extended use of N95 respirators, when acceptable, can also be considered. The decision to implement policies that permit extended use of N95 respirators should be made by the professionals who manage the institution’s respiratory protection program, in consultation with their occupational health and infection control departments with input from the state/local public health departments. CDC has recommended guidance on implementation of extended use of N95 respirators in healthcare settings. Extended use has been recommended and widely used as an option for conserving respirators during previous respiratory pathogen outbreaks and pandemics.

Extended use refers to the practice of wearing the same N95 respirator for repeated close contact encounters with several different patients, without removing the respirator between patient encounters. Extended use is well suited to situations wherein multiple patients with the same infectious disease diagnosis, whose care requires use of a respirator, are cohorted (e.g., housed on the same hospital unit). It can also be considered to be used for care of patients with tuberculosis, varicella, and measles, other infectious diseases where use of an N95 respirator or higher is recommended. When practicing extended use of N95 respirators, the maximum recommended extended use period is 8–12 hours. Respirators should not be worn for multiple work shifts and should not be reused after extended use. N95 respirators should be removed (doffed) and discarded before activities such as meals and restroom breaks.

Our best advice is to be smart. If you go visit a friend for an hour and spend that time outdoors while socially distanced, there’s no reason to throw away your mask. If you work indoors around other people all day or attend school, you should absolutely dispose of your face mask at the end of each day once you get home.

As for cleaning and reusing face masks, you should never under any circumstances attempt to clean a disposable respirator with soap, disinfectant, hand sanitizer, or any other cleaner. Doing so will compromise the integrity of the mask material. Some people use UV-C sanitizer boxes to disinfect their face masks, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Keep in mind, however, that no widely available UV sanitizers have been tested and confirmed to kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Your best bet is to rely on time to ensure safe reuse of your N95 and KN95 face masks. Experts generally agree that the novel coronavirus cannot live for more than a few days on soft, porous, dry surfaces. After taking off a respirator that you plan to reuse, place it in a well-lit area that is dry and out of the way in order to ensure that no one touches it. After a few days, you can safely reuse it. Even still, it’s best to always be extra cautious. Be sure to clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer after touching your mask to put it on, just like you would if you touched your face mask while wearing one out in public.

Other coronavirus pandemic essentials

In addition to high-quality face masks like the ones covered above, there are a few more essentials you need to stock up on during the pandemic. We’ve listed the most important ones below. Prices may be inflated in some cases since demand is so high, but prices in many cases have come down quite a bit lately. Purell hand sanitizer, for example, is on sale right now on Amazon at the lowest prices since the pandemic began.

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