Mask mandates are still in place, and Evanstonians can benefit from the 400 million masks being distributed by the federal government as part of the effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

One type of N95 respirator mask is seen in this CDC website image. ( photo)

The most recent information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website indicates that respirator masks such as N95s and KN95s are designed for tightest fit and filter airborne particles best.

The numbers of new cases of COVID-19 and related hospitalizations have gone down as the omicron surge subsides in Evanston. The city Health and Human Services Department anticipates that if leading COVID-19 metrics continue to improve through February, the city’s vaccination and masking orders can be lifted consistent with Governor J.B. Pritzker’s time frame, anticipated to be Monday, Feb. 28.

For now, though, mask-wearing requirements continue. Wearing a face mask is “a critical public health tool,” the CDC website says.

Free KN95 masks from the federal supply will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 23 at four Evanston locations:

  • Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave.
  • Main Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave.
  • Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St.
  • Evanston Police Department, 1454 Elmwood Ave.

Up to two free KN95 masks will be available per household while supplies last

In addition to the four city-operated mask distribution sites, residents may be able to find free masks at some area pharmacies, though supplies are limited.

CDC: ‘Any mask is better than no mask’

“Masks and respirators can provide varying degrees of protection, with well-fitting National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved respirators offering the most protection,” the CDC website says. “Masking is a critical public health tool for preventing spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask.”  

N95 masks have been approved by NIOSH as filtering at least 95% of airborne particles. Other types of NIOSH-approved masks – N99, N100, P95, P99, P100, R95, R99, and R100 – are less well-known but “offer the same or better protection as an N95 respirator,” the CDC says.

The KN95 mask is certified to meet Chinese standards similar to the U.S. N95 rules. The KF94 mask meets South Korean standards. The CDC website warns of the risk of counterfeit or ineffective foreign products.

While offering less protection than respirator masks, disposable surgical-style masks that are well-fitting offer more protection than cloth masks, which provide the least protection to varying degrees depending on tightness of fabric weave and mask fit, the CDC says. The key difference between respirator masks and other masks is that respirators filter the air and particles, while other masks only stop what someone exhales, sneezes or coughs out.

More information is available on the CDC’s Types of Mask and Respirators web page, including tips on choosing a mask, proper fit, how to identify NIOSH-approved respirators and considerations for children.

Ned Schaub

Ned Schaub is a feature story writer for the RoundTable. He has served as reporter, content developer and communications manager across his career in the field of nonprofit communications. Ned studied...

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  1. N95 masks- I’ve noticed that masks are available in Evanston during the average persons working hours. EPL and the Levy Center should have at least one day of evening hours.
    Thank you~