Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said that residents should try to move away from using single-layered cloth face masks and instead seek out medical or surgical masks that have been more effective in slowing the spread of Covid-19.
This includes N95, KN95 and KF94 masks, Newel said during a virtual press conference on Thursday. A 3-ply or 4-ply surgical mask with a cloth mask layered on top of it will also work, as well as multi-layered cloth masks that include a filter.
“It’s as much about the material as the fit, however, so make sure there’s a snug fit across your nose,” Newel said. “Cloth masks, in particular, are only effective if they have a good fit across the nose.”
The updated recommendation comes as Santa Cruz County is facing a record-breaking surge in the number of people contracting the disease. At least 4,000 county residents have tested positive for Covid-19 during the winter surge powered by the Omicron variant.
The good news: severe hospitalizations and local ICU bed capacity has remained manageable, health officials said Thursday.
Deputy County Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci said during Thursday’s press conference that they were also updating the county’s masking recommendation because of the increased availability of medical-grade masks. In 2020, health officials asked the public to preserve the nation’s limited mask supply for the health care professionals at the front lines of the pandemic.
“[Now], I’m able to buy some KN95s from Amazon although I have noted the price has almost doubled in the past couple of months,” Ghilarducci said.
When asked if the county could spare masks for those who could not afford to purchase the medical-grade variety, Ghilarducci said that the county’s stockpile of masks is reserved for the health care system and that they don’t have enough to go around.
“But we’ll have some conversations back amongst ourselves about any ways we can support the community,” he said.
The state has supplied local school districts with tens of thousands of N95 masks for staff and students, Deputy County Health Officer Dr. Cal Gordon said, but all of those masks shipped to the County Office of Education were adult size.
“So they fit the staff and the people in high school,” Gordon said. “The school systems are working on getting smaller size N95s for the younger students at this time.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday also clarified its recommendation on masks, saying that Americans should “wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.”