N95 face masks are a hot-ticket item right now. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to obtain them due to shortages and most manufacturers prioritizing shipments to first responders and government agencies over the general public. But there is an alternative, called the KN95 mask.
According to both healthcare manufacturer 3M and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the KN95 mask is a “suitable replacement” for the N95 mask. Much like the N95, the KN95 can filter 95% of non-oily particles larger than 0.3 microns, offering superior protection over the rectangular paper masks that seem to be popping up at many dollar stores nationwide.
Paper and cloth masks don’t do much
Stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s are selling out of N95 masks as soon as they come in, with some stores reserving their stocks for local first responders and hospitals. Early on, our local hospital here bought the entire stock of N95 masks from the Home Depot because they were unable to get them through other channels.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen a few dollar stores nearby begin to sell the rectangular paper masks. But most are selling them for as much as a $1 per mask, and the protection you get from them is questionable.
While these masks will prevent you from spreading germs to others, they don’t do a good job of filtering out incoming germs. The same goes for cloth masks, which after the CDC’s recommendation a few weeks back have become a lot more popular — plus with the latter, you need to make sure you’re sanitizing them properly.
The bottom line is if you want real protection, you need a mask that not only protects others from your germs but vice versa.
Try this retailer
We’ve found at least one retailer that seems — at least for now — to have a substantial stock of KN95 masks and is committed to not only supply first responders but the general public as well.
KN95 Mask Co promises to deliver your masks in three days and offers packages of 3, 5, 10, 50, and 100. As you buy more, you save more. The smallest option is three-pack and costs $20, which comes out to a little less than $7 per mask. For the five-pack, you’ll pay $30, the 10-pack $60, and the 50-pack $299 ( about $6 per mask). The 100-pack is the best deal at $5 per mask, but you’ll also have to shell out $499 for it.
Most will not need that many masks, so the five-pack is probably your best bet without breaking the bank unless you’re splitting them with others (which we recommend as your per-mask cost is much less). And if you’re wondering, these prices aren’t significantly higher than pre-pandemic, and shipping is via three-day air. With the latter, and shipping costs adding another $20 or so to the order, we recommend you buy as many as you can afford to get the best deal.
Out of luck?
If you can’t afford this right now, we still recommend making a homemade cloth mask. The CDC has instructions on how to create one. While they don’t offer a substantial amount of protection, you’re at least lessening your risk of getting sick.
The great thing about these masks is that they’re reusable, and sanitary as long as you follow the proper precautions.