Health

CDC Says N95 Masks Offer the Best Protection Against COVID-19. Few Americans Are Wearing Them

Findings show adults are split on how long they expect to mask up in public

A 43 percent plurality of U.S. adults said they typically wear cloth masks in public indoor spaces, while 27 percent wear surgical masks, according to a Morning Consult poll. Another 11 percent said they wear KN95 masks, and 9 percent wear N95s, the latter of which offer the most protection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month. (Getty Images)

Adults are more likely to opt for cloth masks than any other type of face covering in public, new Morning Consult polling shows, despite recent public health warnings that they’re less protective against the omicron variant.

1 in 5 Adults Say They Wear Highly Protective N95 or KN95 Masks

Adults were asked what type of mask they usually wear in indoor public spaces

Poll conducted Jan. 22-23, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,211 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

What you need to know:

  • A 43 percent plurality of U.S. adults said they typically wear cloth masks in public indoor spaces, while 27 percent wear surgical masks. Another 11 percent said they wear KN95 masks, and 9 percent wear N95s, the latter of which offer the most protection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month.
  • The findings suggest health officials have a tall task ahead of them to spread the word about the higher-quality masks — and to make them more easily accessible, given 40 percent of adults said it’s difficult to find an N95 mask. Fifty-nine percent said they’d like to upgrade to an N95 in light of the CDC’s recent update, while 2 in 3 said the same after hearing about the White House’s plan to distribute free masks to the public.
  • As N95s and KN95s become more sought out by the public, health officials may also need to ramp up their warnings about counterfeits. According to the CDC, about 60 percent of KN95 masks evaluated by federal researchers in the past two years were deficient.
  • Adults are more likely to trust than distrust that N95 masks ordered online are certified, 41 percent to 28 percent, though another 31 percent of adults said they don’t know or have no opinion.
Public Is Split on How Long It’ll Be Wearing Masks

Adults were asked how long they expect to regularly be wearing a mask in public

Poll conducted Jan. 22-23, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,211 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

What you need to know:

  • Adults were split on how long they expect to be wearing a mask in public: About 1 in 5 said they plan to wear them in public for the foreseeable future, while 14 percent said they’re no longer wearing them regularly — or never did.
  • Health officials recommend that people who are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines wear a mask when indoors in public. Yet only about 1 in 10 unvaccinated adults said they would continue to mask up as long as health officials recommend it. They were more likely to point to workplace or local mandates, though 15 percent also said they expect to keep wearing a mask indefinitely.
  • Overall, about 3 in 5 adults said they are comfortable doing outdoor activities without a mask, while 35 percent said they’re comfortable being maskless indoors. Meanwhile, nearly 4 in 5 adults say they’re still wearing masks “sometimes” or “always” in indoor public spaces, while 56 percent say as much about being outdoors.
  • Vaccinated adults were much more likely than their unvaccinated peers to say they typically wear a mask in public, and less likely to say they’d be comfortable going maskless at either indoor or outdoor settings. The CDC recommends that vaccinated people wear a mask indoors if the virus is spreading at a high level in their community.

 

The Jan. 22-23, 2022, poll was conducted among a representative sample of 2,211 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult