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N95, Surgical Masks Hard to Find as Cloth Masks Are Labelled as Less Effective by Experts

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- As the Omicron wave continues to surge, doctors are urging people to step up their mask game.

"A cloth mask doesn't cut it anymore," said Dr. Shashank Ravi, with Stanford Healthcare. "A cloth mask was adequate when we were at other parts of the pandemic, when we were social distancing, when there were periods of lockdowns. But now, we are among each other. We know with Omicron the virus is more easily transmissible, we know it's around more people with just the cases we're seeing now. That's why public health officials, the CDC, and doctors are recommending surgical masks over the cloth masks."

During his explanation as to why, he used the following analogy.

"A light drizzle versus a heavy rain. When it's drizzling lightly, a hoodie keeps your head dry. But when the rain really starts coming down, a hoodie doesn't cut it anymore and you need an umbrella or something that provides more protection. That's what a surgical mask does compared to a cloth mask," he said. "You should wear a surgical mask, that's what provides the most protection at the minimum. Obviously, if you have access or the ability to upgrade to something like a KN95, do so."

However, finding the better quality masks could be a bit tricky. KPIX 5 checked out several pharmacies up and down the Peninsula. While some had boxes of the surgical style masks in stock, other spots were running very low or were out of stock. KPIX 5 could not find any N-95 masks.

"At the pharmacies, I think they'll run out," said Shannon Brown, who lives in Redwood City.

Ravi emphasized it's important the masks fit well.

"Upping the mask game is something easy that you can do to prevent, or try to prevent obtaining the virus," he said.

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