Omicron Update: What face mask is best for you? Medical experts weigh in

NEW YORK (WABC) -- With soaring COVID cases is renewing the debate over face masks, medical experts joined Eyewitness News to weigh in with their masking recommendations.

Dr. Bruce Farber, Chief Public Health and Epidemiology Officer at Northwell Health, and Dr. Jay Varma, Director of Weill Cornell Medicine's Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response, joined Eyewitness News Wednesday with some important recommendations regarding the use of face masks.

What's considered a high-quality mask?

Dr. Farber says the highest-quality masks are the N95 masks that are worn by health care workers when they're taking care of COVID patients.

He says they're tight-fitting and fit-tested, but are quite uncomfortable.

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About one in every five Americans has now tested positive for COVID-19 as children under five are being hospitalized with the virus at record high numbers.

"I've worn them for many years, you have a hard time wearing them all day -- they're difficult because they're so tight-fitted," he said.

Is that what people should be wearing?

Dr. Farber says for people who are actively around COVID patients, they should wear an N95. However, because of their expense, their availability and difficulty in wearing them for long periods of time, he's not sure they're practical for the general public.

"I think the KN95 is the next best compromise, which is a tight-fitting, but somewhat looser mask," Farber said.

After the KN95, he says the surgical mask is less effective but is much more comfortable.

Masks to avoid?

Farber says the masks you need to avoid are the loose-fitting cloth masks, which hold little to no value. However, he says any mask is better than no mask, especially indoors.

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More than 1.4 million new COVID cases were reported in the U.S. in 24 hours as COVID-19 numbers are starting to plateau for the first time in weeks.

Dr. Jay Varma had a similar recommendation, saying "the best mask is the one that you wear."

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Dr. Jay Varma joins Eyewitness News to answer your COVID questions and gives his guidance on face masks.

Varma also strongly urged New Yorkers to wear N95 or KN95 masks if they're available.

How about double masking?

Varma even went a step further on guidance over double masking.

"If they're gonna double mask, use the medical mask on the bottom and use a well-fitting cloth mask over it," he said.

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