Charles George VA Medical Center
Universal Masking: What’s the difference in face masks?
N95 Respirator: A NIOSH-approved N95 reduces the wearer’s exposure to airborne particles, from small particle aerosols to large droplets. N95 respirators are tight-fitting respirators that filter out at least 95% of particles in the air, including large and small particles.
Medical Facemask: Also called surgical masks, these are loose-fitting and provide only barrier protection against droplets, including large respiratory particles. No fit-testing or seal check is necessary with facemasks. Most facemasks do not effectively filter small particles from the air and do not prevent leakage around the edge of the mask when the user inhales.
Cloth Face Covering (Homemade Face Mask): A facial covering made of cloth material covering the nose and mouth. A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others. These have no medical grade quality and offer the lowest protection. This is the recommendation from CDC for community/public use. This is not intended for hospital/medical use.
The role of facemasks is for patient source control, to prevent contamination of the surrounding area when a person coughs or sneezes. In light of new data about how COVID-19 spreads, along with evidence of widespread COVID-19 illness in communities across the country, CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in the community setting. This is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in addition to (not instead of) social distancing, frequent hand cleaning and other everyday preventive actions. This would be especially important in the event that someone is infected but does not have symptoms. A cloth face covering should be worn whenever people must go into public settings (grocery stores, for example).
The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N95 respirators. Medical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance. Patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should wear a medical facemask until they are isolated in a hospital or at home.
Masks can be donated through the VA Voluntary Services Department. Please call 828-298-7911 ext. 2514. We are not currently accepting homemade masks.