For the 50+ Traveler

Concerns continue to rise as the spread of new coronavirus strains surge. The variant discovered in the United Kingdom, which is especially contagious, has been documented in as many as 20 U.S. states, NBC News reported.

Now, medical experts are suggesting we may want to bolster the precautions we’re taking to stay safe in closed environments.

Last Friday on NBC’s Today, NBC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. John Torres spoke of the dangers of the UK variant. “Even though it’s not more deadly,” he said, “it can spread faster.”

Since we’re all going to need to mask up, Torres recommends we strengthen our efforts in doing so. He said that people working in closed environments may need N95 masks or double masks, though “any mask is better than no mask.”

“We all need much, much higher quality masks in any sort of high-risk situation,” Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said on Today's Friday episode. “If you find yourself in an indoor space, a grocery store, or in an office building around other people, a simple cloth mask is probably not enough for this very contagious variant."

You are probably familiar with N95 respirator masks and KN95 masks. They are the preferred protective face coverings because they filter at least 95 percent of airborne particles. To make sure you’re using an authentic N95 mask, look for a NIOSH stamp.

But because N95s are so difficult to find, doctors say not to worry because you have other options. “I don’t think people should think that’s what they need,” Jha told The New York Times. “Certainly there are a lot of masks out in the marketplace that are pretty good.”

One good alternative to the N95 is the KF94 mask. Made in South Korea, this type of mask can be purchased easily online. It looks like an N95, and it’s made of a similar material that blocks 94 percent of the hardest-to-trap viral particles. They can be left to air dry and reused a few times, but they are not washable. You can find packs of KF94 masks available with free shipping on Amazon.

Note that because it has earloops, a KF94 may not fit as snuggly on your face as the N95 does.

Jha suggests you “save your KF94 mask for higher-risk situations — like riding a subway, spending time in a store or going to a doctor’s appointment. Use your cloth mask for outdoor errands, exercise or walking the dog.”