You Asked, We Answered is a VA blog post series where VHA answers your questions regarding COVID-19. Find answers to previous questions here.

Construction, fit and consistent use each play an important role in how a face mask performs to protect against COVID-19. The purpose of a face mask is to fit snugly around your nose and mouth to reduce air leakage.

Face mask graphic

Masks are required in all VA facilities.

To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, CDC continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.

What type should I wear?

There are many types of masks, each with advantages and drawbacks. Here’s a look at several options:

Best: N95 and KN95 masks are types of respirators. They can require more effort to breathe, may be more expensive and more difficult to obtain. Like other masks, proper fit is key. Some KN95 respirators sold in the U.S. may be counterfeit. Learn how to recognize counterfeit respirators here.

Better: Wear a surgical or disposable face mask underneath a cloth mask. This can provide enhanced protection by improving the fit of the masks while adding another layer of protection.

Good: Surgical Masks or disposable face masks are easy to obtain, tend to be less costly, and are disposable. They may fit loosely, and there may be gaps around the sides of your face or nose.

Not Recommended (alone): Cloth masks can be made from a variety of natural and synthetic fabrics and fibers. They are easy to obtain, are reusable, and are the least costly mask option. However, they can fit poorly, and there may be gaps around the sides of your face or nose.

Proper fit and performance

Whichever mask type you choose, consider these tips for improving fit and performance:

  • Bend the nose wire over your nose to conform to your face
  • Shave or trim your beard close to the face
  • Use a mask fitter or brace
  • Knot the ear loops
  • Tuck any additional material underneath the edges to ensure a tighter fit
  • Wear two masks – specifically, one disposable mask underneath a cloth mask
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7 Comments

  1. Niclas Bengtson February 8, 2022 at 2:52 am

    Is KN95 the same as FFP2? Or how do the different models differ? Is it the case that KN95 is a Chinese standard and FFP2 European?

  2. Morgan February 4, 2022 at 3:05 pm

    How come in these emails you never give stats when it comes to COVID. All you ever say is continued high rates. What are the rates? Gives us something so we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

  3. John Stauffer February 4, 2022 at 2:44 pm

    I am a disabled veteran. I receive better medical and mental health care from the Boise VA than any civilian care that I have ever accessed. Masks information is just another piece of that care. I was diagnosed with Covid-19 last week by a community health agency. I then gave that information to my provider care team. The team provided excellent in home care advice. I’m not sure that I should ask for free masks. Kudos to my VA care providers!

  4. Jack Keiffer February 2, 2022 at 9:36 pm

    Why doesn’t the V.A. obtain some of the free KN95 masks that the Biden administration is providing? They have been provided to Walmart and drug stores around the country. I respect the V.A. and the dedicated workers that have provided me with quality healthcare! Very Sincerely, Jack Keiffer. (The U.S. Army, 1980.)

  5. N. E. Figueroa February 2, 2022 at 9:03 pm

    Why are people still required to wear masks when the science proves that they don’t work to protect against airborne pathogens only pathogens that spread by droplets. Why doesn’t the VA teach the difference between a mask and a respirator. N95 is not a mask it’s is a low grade respirator. A respirator is effective against pathogens that travel by aerosols. A virus travels by aerosols not by droplets.

  6. Paul Dumlao January 28, 2022 at 5:34 pm

    Why isn’t the VA providing the best mask to veterans? This would prevent veterans from getting the incorrect or counterfeit mask.

    • Lorna February 1, 2022 at 10:24 pm

      I agree! As I was reading this article… I asked myself the same thing

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