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DENVER (KDVR) — As the omicron variant spreads, high-quality masks are needed to prevent contracting the variant.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced a push to distribute N95 masks to the public for free. But there are still other options to consider as omicron breaks case count records nationwide. 

“There are lots of different kinds of masks out there,” Biden said Thursday. “When you’re indoors, in public places, you should wear the mask.”

N95 mask alternatives that aren’t cloth masks

Federal health officials say cloth masks — while better than nothing at all — are not ideal in the fight against omicron. As Americans wait for free N95 masks, other effective masking options are available.

“There’s a variety of medical masks that protect us just as well as an N95, or, in some cases, even better,” said Mara Maddocks, executive vice president of MAC Medical Supply, a female-owned medical supply company with clients nationwide, including hospitals in Colorado.

Maddocks said tested and certified procedural earloop masks also offer 95% filtration, and some do even better. Typically, those masks are easier and more comfortable to wear than N95s.

“They are light and breathable,” Maddocks said. “The secret is in that filtering paper.”

How to find real N95 masks

Maddocks told FOX31 that consumers should do their homework before buying.

“Among the N95s and the KN95s, there is a lot of fraudulent product out there,” Maddocks warned. “If it doesn’t look right, it’s probably not right.”

She offered these tips:

  • Look for consistent labeling on products and the boxes they come in
  • Look for testing data and an FDA certification
  • For ear loop medical masks, look for an ASTM rating
  • For N95 masks, buy well-known trusted brands