KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — People can find more and more masks nowadays on the shelves with "virus-fighting" labels after only a few masks could be found at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They may be promoting "antiviral" properties claiming to keep you safer than a regular mask. But is that true? Are some masks better than others?
One of Tennessee's top infectious disease experts said that they are not that different. He said that what matters most is that people wear them properly.
"Some of them are very old-fashioned surgical masks, they're inexpensive and they work," said Dr. William Schaffner with Vanderbilt University Medical Center about disposable masks.
He also commented on reusable masks. He said that they are thick and that they tend to fit people nicely. But Schaffner said that whichever mask someone chooses, only one thing matters — for people to wear masks properly.
Masks need to cover both the nose and mouth to be effective. He also said that there's no need to worry about "antiviral" claims.
"People are out there trying to promote fancy masks, antiviral masks," he said. "Don't bother with those. Just get a good solid mask."
If you're wearing it correctly, he said it'll get the job done. He recommends using disposable masks for only several wears and washing reusable ones at least once a week. It's time to throw it out when it starts to look tattered and beat up.
"They all work equally well," said Schaffner.
As COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out, wearing a mask will still play an important role.
"It's a marathon, not a sprint," he said. "There's not a magic wand, the vaccine. It's one of many things we can do to rescue the transmission of the virus."
Local and state leaders continue to ask Governor Lee for a statewide mask mandate. He has said in the past the decision is up to the counties.