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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Missoula public health officials: Get better masks

N95 mask
Marvin Samuel Tolentino Pineda/Getty Images/iStockphoto
N95 mask

Missoula County Public health officials are asking the public to up their masking game as the highly-infectious omicron variant spreads.

Missoula County Health Office D’Shane Barnett had this message this week during a public Q&A about how people can protect themselves from the omicron variant: get better masks.

“A cloth mask can absolutely add protection. It adds a small level of protection compared to surgical masks. And surgical masks add a small level of protection compared to the N95.”

The advice comes as Federal health officials warn that Omicron is three times as infectious as the Delta variant and is now the dominant variant in Montana.

Barnett says medical facilities have plenty of N95 masks on hand, unlike earlier in the pandemic when the respirators were in short supply. He adds that if you are unable to find N95 masks, you should wear a triple-layered cloth mask or a cloth mask over a surgical mask, but neither provide as much protection as an N95.

KN95 masks are also an option, but the CDC warns that many of those masks are fake and don’t meet international standards. You can find more information about legitimate masks from the CD .

Aaron Bolton is Montana Public Radio's Flathead Valley reporter.