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How much protection do N95 and KN95 masks offer?


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I'm in a state with skyrocketing covid rates (yay...).

My family is more careful than most locally but compared to many on this board we are probably taking way too many risks. 

The place I see the greatest risk is a karate class with 8-10 participants unmasked plus my kids. I've been sending mine with N95 masks that fit well.

Am I crazy to do so?

The N95s are expensive so I use KN95s that don't have NIOSH approval for activities where others mask (mostly church and dance class).

We've opted out of other activities but karate is super important to my kids' mental health. We've cut down on the number of classes but I don't want to cut them out entirely if I can avoid it.

Edited by maize
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My understanding is that KN95s are all over the board in terms of how well they do or don’t work. With N95s, it all comes down to fit. Assuming you don’t have access to fit testing, yet as far as you can tell they fit tightly to the face with no gaps at all, I would guess that is a decent indication that they are eliminating a lot of particles, but no guarantee that they are functioning at N95 level. I have one n95 which fits me extremely well, but obviously hasn’t been fit tested, and I did use that when I had to stop and use a restroom on the road. I chose a honey bucket in a very lonely area rather than a busy rest station. The karate class would make me nervous with everyone being unmasked, assuming it’s indoors. Do They open the windows or anything? With open windows and an N95 fit tightly, that would make me feel a lot better.

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No open windows. I wish they would.

There is no way they aren't going to have transmission within the studio eventually and that upsets me because these are people I really care about.

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Properly fitting N95s work well--which is why healthcare providers wear them.

As an aside--where are you getting your N95s?  I am having to fly across the country and back several times over the coming months and my stash of N95s that I got during the last pandemic is dwindling.

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6 minutes ago, EKS said:

Properly fitting N95s work well--which is why healthcare providers wear them.

As an aside--where are you getting your N95s?  I am having to fly across the country and back several times over the coming months and my stash of N95s that I got during the last pandemic is dwindling.

https://easternppeimports.com/

I buy from this company; these seem legitimate, though I have no way of 100% verifying that anything is what it says it is.

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Wow, inside and not everyone is masked with skyrocketing numbers?  Does your state not have a mask mandate?  Can t hug they do virtual lessons?  Anyway you can talk the teacher owner and get masks on everyone for that class.

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43 minutes ago, EKS said:

Properly fitting N95s work well--which is why healthcare providers wear them.

As an aside--where are you getting your N95s?  I am having to fly across the country and back several times over the coming months and my stash of N95s that I got during the last pandemic is dwindling.

Do you know about sterilizing them in an instant pot? That could allow your supply to last longer without degrading.

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18 minutes ago, mommyoffive said:

Wow, inside and not everyone is masked with skyrocketing numbers?  Does your state not have a mask mandate?  Can t hug they do virtual lessons?  Anyway you can talk the teacher owner and get masks on everyone for that class.

No mask mandate for the state.

The studio owner will not mandate or even encourage masks.

They have worked with me to create some private lessons just for my family, but there is no way to replicate the blackbelt class.

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Without a fit-test, you won't ever know.  N95's that feel like they fit often don't really.

Are your kids also wearing eye-protection?  If the other participants are unmasked, then eye protection matters  - maybe more than the difference between a real N95 and a KN95 that haven't been fit-tested.

Surgical masks are actually quite good in practice:  Easier to wear without touching your face to re-adjust, because they aren't uncomfortable the way N95's are.  They are what HCP's wear here, even when caring for known Covid patients, as N95's are strictly reserved for aerosol generating procedures only.

I think the big issue for you  here is that the other participants aren't masked.  Unless your kids are in both properly masked and using eye-protection, and following proper PPE  protocols - donning and doffing correctly, not touching face - which I think is nearly impossible for a kid in a sweaty, physically active class, I don't think that the difference between an non-fit-tested N95 or KN95 is going to make much practical difference.  I think you either accept the risk of a high-risk indoor activity, or you don't participate at all.

 

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1 minute ago, wathe said:

Without a fit-test, you won't ever know.  N95's that feel like they fit often don't really.

Are your kids also wearing eye-protection?  If the other participants are unmasked, then eye protection matters  - maybe more than the difference between a real N95 and a KN95 that haven't been fit-tested.

Surgical masks are actually quite good in practice:  Easier to wear without touching your face to re-adjust, because they aren't uncomfortable the way N95's are.  They are what HCP's wear here, even when caring for known Covid patients, as N95's are strictly reserved for aerosol generating procedures only. (ETA - with good results.  We've had zero cases among our clinical staff, despite hundreds of hours of care to known covid positive patients)

I think the big issue for you  here is that the other participants aren't masked.  Unless your kids are in both properly masked and using eye-protection, and following proper PPE  protocols - donning and doffing correctly, not touching face - which I think is nearly impossible for a kid in a sweaty, physically active class, I don't think that the difference between an non-fit-tested N95 or KN95 is going to make much practical difference.  I think you either accept the risk of a high-risk indoor activity, or you don't participate at all.

 

Ooops, quoted myself when I thought I was editing.

Edited by wathe
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Well presumably 95%,  But that is the thing- nothing is 100, not even the 99. We have had more than six months of Covid in this country.  Even if you are a person that started wearing masks in Feb, never took them off anywhere outside of the home and never lived with anyone who didn't, but did go out every single day and for sake of the argument- met people with COVID everyday- you would already have it.  And that is with a perfect fitting mask.  Obviously, more spread with less well fitting masks.  

What we do know about the diseases is that it one of the smallest viruses.   

Edited by TravelingChris
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19 hours ago, wathe said:

Surgical masks are actually quite good in practice:  Easier to wear without touching your face to re-adjust, because they aren't uncomfortable the way N95's are.  They are what HCP's wear here, even when caring for known Covid patients, as N95's are strictly reserved for aerosol generating procedures only.

I find it interesting how this is varying across the county.  My DD had to go to the ER last weekend and they had to rule out COVID.  Everyone had N-95 with a surgical mask over it, and a face shield on before they would enter her cubicle.  Even when I go to the doctor for various specialties every person, from the front desk, to the lab person is wearing N-95 or KN-95 whether it's in the hospital, or in a private office. 

The class is a high risk activity, mask or not.  Only you can decide your own families risks.  Based on some studies you have the 8-10 people they share the room with, but potentially all those from the hours prior as well.  There is simply a lot that we don't know yet about this virus.

 

Edited by melmichigan
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23 minutes ago, Farrar said:

When everyone is wearing a surgical mask or even a regular multi-layer cloth mask, the risk goes down so much to everyone. That's... so depressing.

It really is. Unfortunately there are still a lot of mask refusers here, and covid-severity-deniers.

Even my dentist's office wasn't having everyone mask when we were there one month ago--the dentist and hygienists wore masks but the front office staff didn't and they weren't encouraging patients to mask. I had to go back today and this time everyone had masks and there was a sign on the door requesting that patients wear masks.

I'm trying to walk a line between caution and isolation. I figure if my family always wear the best quality masks we can manage we at least ought to end up with a lower viral load of we do get covid. And we can likely avoid unknowingly passing it to others by always masking and by testing anytime we have symptoms (unfortunately also not something many people are doing; they don't test and discourage others from testing.)

 

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