N95 respirators and surgical masks are examples of personal protective equipment that are used to protect the wearer from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also regulate N95 respirators.

It is important to recognize that the optimal way to prevent airborne transmission is to use a combination of interventions from across the hierarchy of controls, not just PPE alone.

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Reusable & Washable masks

The CDC recommends that members of the public use simple cloth face coverings when in a public setting to slow the spread of the virus since this will help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. For more information, see the CDC's Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings, Especially in Areas of Significant Community-Based Transmission.

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, the CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions, such as hand washing and maintaining at least 6 feet of social distancing, to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases.

A surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable device that creates a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and potential contaminants in the immediate environment. Surgical masks are regulated under 21 CFR 878.4040. Surgical masks are not to be shared and maybe labeled as surgical, isolation, dental, or medical procedure masks. They may come with or without a face shield. These are often referred to as face masks, although not all face masks are regulated as surgical masks.

Surgical masks are made in different thicknesses and with different abilities to protect you from contact with liquids. These properties may also affect how easily you can breathe through the face mask and how well the surgical mask protects you.