United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is formulating a new update on mask policy, which is likely to suggest the usage of N95 masks as omicron variant of COVID has taken over the new wave of infections. Earlier studies have suggested that the variant may not be properly stopped by the cloth masks.

According to reports from Washington Post citing an unnamed health official, the health care body is “currently actively looking to update its recommendations for KN95 and N95 in light of omicron.” 

Also Read: Amid global COVID surge, WHO warns against treating omicron like the flu

The United States faced a severe shortage of N95 masks at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which further crunched the supplies for health care professionals and front-line workers. This shortage molded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s initial guidance on masks, which did not recommend the use of the more protective face coverings.

According to reports from Washington Post, the broken mask supply chain of the United States was keeping the recommendations from being made public.

United States assistant secretary for preparedness and response, Dawn O’Connell revealed that as of late December, the country’s stockpile had about 747 million units of N95 masks. This number is nearly 59 times of the pre-COVID era.

Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on PBS NewsHour, “If people want extra layers of protection, the KN95 or N95s do offer that.”

Also Read: Omicron is less severe as it spares the lungs, studies suggest

Walensky added, “But what I also want to really emphasize is that you need to be able to keep them on for when you’re in those settings. Those KN95 and N95s are often not as comfortable.”

According to reports from Wall Street Journal, the surgical masks are equipped with polypropylene electrostatic charge characteristics, while N95 grade masks usually have tighter mesh fibers. This allows the N95 to have boosted efficiency against the virus.