PEI

Here is the latest pandemic mask advice

The Omicron variant is far more contagious than previous COVID-19 variants, and it may be time to update your mask.

New supplies of N95s coming into P.E.I. stores

Luke Beck of Kays Wholesale wears an N95 mask, pinched at the nose and tight fitting around the face. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC)

The Omicron variant is far more contagious than previous COVID-19 variants, and it may be time to update your mask.

There are basically three types of mask, says Dr. Trevor Jain, an emergency department physician at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown — cloth, medical and N95 — with cloth being the least protective and N95s the most.

To this point in the pandemic, cloth masks have been considered sufficient for most public places, but Omicron has many experts suggesting an upgrade, and that led to a run on N95 masks at many P.E.I. stores.

Luke Beck, CEO of Kays Wholesale, said in the last two days of 2021 the company sold half as many N95 masks as it did all of the rest of the year.

At Charlottetown Home Hardware, a large shipment of masks that arrived just before Christmas sold out in two days. Assistant manager Tammy Clory, who has been with Home Hardware for 24 years, has never seen anything like it.

The supply of N95 masks at the distribution centre looks good, says Tammy Clory. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC)

"Not at all surprised. Just with everything going on, people are certainly being cautious," said Clory.

Another 3,000 masks are coming in this week, she said, and currently the supply at the company distribution centre looks good.

Proper wear crucial

If you can't find an N95 there are other options, said Jain.

"A double medical mask is almost just as good as an N95," he said.

"You also want to save those N95s for health-care providers who are doing high-risk procedures."

Whether you are wearing medical masks or N95s, it is crucial to wear them properly, said Jain.

Squeeze them so they fit firmly around the nose and most importantly keep them covering the nose and mouth while out in public. If you lower the mask to talk to someone, he said, there is no sense in wearing it.

With files from Island Morning and Compass

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