The use of a face-covering over the nose and mouth is a critical public health tool for preventing spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask. However, as the more contagious Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly through our community, some masks work better than others.

The list below offers information about different types of masks in order of highest level of protection to lowest.

N95 Mask/Respirator – Most Protective

  • When worn consistently and properly, they provide the highest level of protection from particles, including the virus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, they contain your respiratory droplets and particles so you do not expose others.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that specially labeled “surgical” N95 respirators — a special subtype of N95 respirators that provide additional protection against hazards present during medical procedures, such as blood splatter — should be reserved for use by healthcare personnel.
  • N95 Respirators approved by NIOSH are evaluated against a specific US standard that includes a quality requirement.

KN95 Mask/Respirator 

  • The most widely available masks that meet an international standard are KN95 respirators. 
  • Now, KN95 masks are being provided to Coloradans through the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the federal government. To learn more about the program visit
    • Find masks at these library locations in Mesa County starting Saturday, January 22.
  • The difference between N95 and KN95 masks is where the mask is certified. The US certifies N95s, whereas China approves KN95s.
  • Beware of poor-quality KN95 masks. About 60% of KN95 masks NIOSH evaluated during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 did not meet the requirements that they intended to meet.
    • Using a poor-quality product may not provide the level of protection indicated.
  • Learn about factors to consider when purchasing an international mask. This webpage and a webinar provide reliable information to guide you.

Disposable Procedure Masks 

  • Disposable procedure masks are widely available.
  • Sometimes referred to as surgical masks or medical procedure masks.
  • Procedure masks can be more effective when worn under a cloth mask.
  • If you wear a procedure mask, make sure it is a proper fit over your nose, mouth, and chin to prevent leaks, has multiple layers of non-woven material, and has a nose wire.

Cloth Masks – Least Protective

  • Cloth Masks can be made from a variety of fabrics and many types of cloth masks are available.
  • Cloth masks can be more effective when worn over a procedure mask.
  • If you wear a cloth mask, make sure it is a proper fit over your nose, mouth, and chin to prevent leaks, has multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric, a nose wire, and has fabric that blocks light when held up to bright light source.
  • DO NOT wear cloth masks with exhalation valves or vents.