Mask up! The best face masks for use against COVID-19 [Updated]

Source: ARS Technica


This past March, we updated this face mask buying guide with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including new science on the increased effectiveness of double-masking. Vaccinations had just started rolling out, and we were on the precipice of what many hoped would be a "return to normal," only for the public to be swiftly reminded that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, continues to circulate, mutate, and claim lives.

The omicron variant is the latest variant of concern, following late-summer and early-winter surges in US COVID cases spurred by the highly contagious delta variant. Early studies of omicron indicate that it’s even more transmissible—and potentially more likely to cause breakthrough infections in vaccinated people. The Biden administration has released new plans to combat rising infections and the emergent omicron variant. Naturally, proper masking is key.

Heading into the holidays with all of this in mind—and with generally improved conditions in the global supply of personal protective equipment (PPE)—we thought now would be a good time for a booster on mask knowledge. Our newly updated mask guide includes information on how to double-mask effectively, how to reuse KN95 and N95 masks safely, how to maximize a surgical mask's effectiveness, how to choose and clean great cloth masks, and more. Below are our latest picks based on product availability and long-term testing.