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New York, NY — Many states, including New York and New Jersey, have mandated that people must wear face masks out in public if they are unable to maintain the proper social distancing.

PIX11 spoke with Dr. Drew Sinatra, a board-certified naturopathic doctor, who helped explain the differences between the three most common types of masks: N95 respirators, surgical masks, and DIY cloth masks.

The N95 mask is the preferred mask for first responders and healthcare workers on the front line.

“What the 95 stands for is it really helps filter out 95 percent of large and small particles in the air that are greater than 0.3 microns in size,” said Dr. Sinatra. As a reference, he explained, a strand of hair measures 75 microns. “These masks should be saved for frontline workers who may come in contact with people who are really sick.”

A surgical mask can also offer protection, but it does not filter as well as the N95. It is primarily used to prevent splashing or splatter.

“If someone is wearing the mask and they cough or sneeze,” Dr. Sinatra said, “It’s going to prevent some of those large respiratory droplets from hitting your nose and mouth.”

Medical mask

Additionally, people can construct their own homemade masks from things like bandannas or other material around the house. They may not be as effective as the other masks, but some protection is better than none at all.

“We’re really wearing masks to protect others from getting sick. You may not have symptoms at all, but you should still wear a mask because you could have COVID-19 and spread it to someone else,” Dr. Sinatra said.

Colorful (DIY) homemade cloth facial masks for protection against coronavirus (COVID-19).
Colorful (DIY) homemade cloth facial masks for protection against coronavirus (COVID-19).