Masks have been in high demand since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stores have run out of them and others have volunteered to make them. Now, Governor Andrew Cuomo is ordering anyone interacting in public to wear a mask. Employers are also required to provide employees with face coverings.
When picking a mask, you have three options. The first is the best and the one we've heard the most about, the N95. Those masks are typically being reserved for medical professionals because of shortages.
That's why some experts say surgical masks are a better option. But unfortunately, there are shortages of those too.
"We're worried about using too much by the public because they're in short supply for the medical community," said Dr. Graciela Desemone, the medical director at UAlbany's Student Health Services.
That leaves cloth masks. This type of face covering typically wasn't recommended before the pandemic, but scientists say they have value. They just need to be worn tightly and washed appropriately.
"I've read you want to launder these as much as you would launder your underwear, which is kind of funny," said Dr. Eric Yager, an associate professor at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. "If you find yourself in a position where you're working and you have to wear these because of that inability to maintain that six-foot distance, you probably want to have a number of them available."
Experts say cloth and surgical masks only work if everyone wears them. They don't necessarily protect the user; instead, they stop you from spreading your own germs to other people.
A mask also won't make you indestructible. Even if wearing one, it's important to remember to wash your hands and maintain social distance.