How Much Do Masks Really Cost? From Cloth to KN95, Here’s a Price Breakdown
As COVID-19 pandemic-related regulations continue to evolve, it’s likely that masks will stay in our lives for a while. Recent spikes in Omicron variant cases are causing health officials to rethink the effectiveness of different types of masks.
While the message remains that wearing a well-fitted mask will offer the best protection, new guidelines suggest and N95 or similar mask is now most effective to prevent the spread of the Omicron virus — but how much will this end up costing you?
Here’s what you can expect to pay for different kinds of masks and face coverings, plus how many times each can be used.
Cloth masks can be found online and at many major retailers. The CDC recommends finding a cloth mask that has two or more layers of breathable fabric that fits snuggly against the sides of your face.
You can find a pack of two fabric masks for as low as $4.00 or a pack of five for around $20. Cloth masks are also reusable, and the CDC recommends that you wash your cloth mask as soon as it becomes dirty either by hand or in the washing machine.
One time cost: $4.00
Disposable surgical masks are also widely available. The CDC recommends a surgical mask with a proper fit over your nose, mouth and chin to prevent leaks, multiple layers of non-woven material and a nose wire.
You can find a pack of 50 disposable surgical masks for as low as $10 or a pack of 100 between $12.75 and $20. Disposable masks should be thrown away after wearing them once.
Average weekly cost: $1.40
The N95 meets the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health N95 classification of air filtration, meaning that it filters at least 95% of airborne particles.
A pack of 10 industrial N95 respirators found at hardware stores can be purchased for around $20 but a pack of 20 NIOSH-approved N95 respirators can cost around $29 and up. The CDC also advises disposing of each N95 after five uses.
Average weekly cost:
- Industrial: $1.40
- NIOSH-Approved: $2.03
The KN95 respirator is similar to the N95, but it has ear loops and was made to meet Chinese standards for medical masks. There are plenty of counterfeits and about 60% of KN95 respirators evaluated during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 did not meet requirements. The CDC says that KN95 markings are printed on the product to indicate they are authentic.
KN95 masks are more expensive than disposable or fabric masks. You can find a pack of 25 KN95 masks for $38 or a pack of 50 between $45 and $60 depending on the retailer. Similar to the N95, each mask should be disposed of after five uses.
Average weekly cost:
President Joe Biden said last week that he plans to make “high-quality masks” like the N95 and KN95 available to Americans for free, NBC News reported.
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