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Demand For N95 Masks, Kids' Surgical Masks Rising As Omicron Spreads

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The surge in new COVID cases is sparking a renewed demand for masks, and many are wondering if they need an upgrade.

Stefanie Scott, of Harlem, says when it comes to her mask, it's all about the fit.

"Some of them, you know, just are really claustrophobic. I can't breathe in them. They are too close to my mouth and my nose," she said.

For India Robinson, it depends on where she's going.

"I wear this [cloth] one when we're going outside and we're not going in an enclosed space. If I was going in a crowded area, I would wear an N95," she said.


With Omicron now exploding, some say they will take a close look at the numbers to decide whether to go to the N95 mask.

"If the death rate is really high, then yeah, I'll probably switch over," one person said.

It appears many are already making a mask upgrade for adults and kids. Sales at places like Value Drugs in Eastchester are on the rise. People are buying up N95s, but also are making sure their kids aren't wearing cloth masks anymore.

"Our N95 masks have seen an uptick in sales, and we've been having a higher demand for kids surgical masks, too," said Michael Carugan, of Value Drugs.

Some companies are also now requiring N95 masks be worn on the job instead of the surgical masks.

READ MORE: Health Experts Say N95 Face Masks Offer Best COVID Protection; How To Make Sure They Are Most Effective

"Why is the N95 mask that much better?" CBS2's Dick Brennan asked infectious disease specialist Dr. David Goldberg, of New York Presbyterian Medical Group.

"The N95 can keep out small aerosol particles which might carry the virus. The surgical masks do not keep out the small aerosol particles," Goldberg said.


Goldberg says if you are healthy and vaccinated and just want to go to the supermarket, a surgical mask will do, but he says certain people should only wear the N95 mask.

"If you are immunocompromised for some reason, if you have risk factors such as advanced age or diabetes, or if you haven't been immunized, then you really should wear the N95," Goldberg said.

He also says the cloth mask is of little value and only wear it if you're desperate. He says now you need a surgical mask at minimum to keep safe.

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