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Former FDA Commissioner urges people to ‘buy better masks’ amid surging cases and hospitalizations 

Now you SHOULD buy an N95: Former FDA commissioner urges Americans to ‘buy better masks’ to protect themselves amid record-high surges in coronavirus cases

  • Former FDA Commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb wrote an op-ed in which he encouraged American to buy better masks
  • He recommended the N95, or its equivalent, due to its proven ability to block at least 95% of small particles
  • Gottlieb said the next best option is a surgical mask, but to make sure it’s approved by the FDA and offers level of protection up to level 3
  • Cloth masks are the least protective but, if nothing else is available, Gottlieb recommends masks made from cotton-polyester blends

The former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says Americans can better prevent themselves from being infected with the coronavirus if they buy better masks. 

In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, Dr Scott Gottlieb, who ran the agency from May 2017 to April 2019, said the level of protection of face coverings depends on what type is worn.  

‘Back [in the spring], medical masks were in short supply. As a compromise, the public was advised to use cloth masks,’ he wrote.

‘The supply chain has since expanded, and while there are still some shortages of medical masks, health-care workers have dedicated supply chains. It’s time to revise the guidance to consumers.’

It comes as coronavirus cases in the US  continue to surge and hospitalizations reached another record-high on Monday with nearly 84,000 patients.

Former FDA Commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb wrote an op-ed. in which he encouraged Americans to buy better masks. Pictured: Gottlieb testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, October 2017

He recommended the N95, or its equivalent, due to its proven ability to block at least 95% of small particles (file image)

He recommended the N95, or its equivalent, due to its proven ability to block at least 95% of small particles (file image)

Gottlieb says N95 masks – the equivalents in China being KN95 and in Europe the FFP2 – offer the best protection against COVID-19. 

N95 respirators, considered the ‘gold standard’, are meant to fit much more closely to the face than traditional face masks and are designed to filter airborne particles.

The ‘N95’ number means that during tests, the respirator blocked at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles.

Most of these respirators are manufactured for use in fields such as construction, where workers may be exposed to dust and small particles. 

‘Better-quality masks can be expensive – perhaps $5 for a single N95 mask,’ Gottlieb wrote. 

‘But having a few available for high-risk settings such as the grocery store can reduce the risk of transmission. 

The next best option are surgical masks, which could offer protection of about 60 percent, Gottlieb said.  

A standard face mask creates a barrier between the nose and mouth and any droplets or germs in the environment.

They are loose-fitting, disposable and not meant to be shared.

Face masks can prevent splashes and large-particle droplets but they do not ‘filter or block very small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs, sneezes or certain medical procedures,’ according to the FDA. 

These are not meant to be used more than once so if users are wearing this mask and it becomes soiled or damaged, throw it away and replace it with a new one. 

Gottlieb said masks that are typically sold on websites such as Amazon are for allergies, not surgical masks. 

He recommends people check if their masks are true surgical masks to see if they’ve been cleared by the FDA and offer levels of protection, up to level three.  

Cloth masks are the least protective, according to Gottlieb but, if nothing else is available, he recommends masks made from cotton-polyester blends.

‘But even a very good cloth mask may only be about 30 [percent] protective; scarf or bandanna, 10 [percent] or less,’ he wrote. 

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