It’s no surprise health officials and experts are encouraging everyone to wear masks – but now they are urging people to cover up in light of the omicron surge, saying it’s time to upgrade.

In an article found on AL.com, Dr. Tomás Aragón, California’s public health director and health officer, said it’s important to improve the fit of masks and their filtration — making enhancements that go beyond old, loose, cloth face coverings that became popular in 2020.

Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the University of California, San Francisco’s Department of Medicine agreed, saying, “an encounter that you could have tolerated for Delta may well infect you [with] Omicron. Knowing this, it’s worth upgrading the protection you get from your mask.”

According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the following list ranks the protection level of each face mask.

BEST:

N95, KN95 and KF94 masks. No extra masks are needed on top of these.

BETTER:

Surgical masks (commonly called “blue masks”). Not quite as effective as the above, but still offers more protection than loose cloth masks. Using these under a cloth mask can help make them more effective – though health officials don’t recommend wearing two surgical masks.

Experts say to throw your surgical mask away if it is wet or dirty or after one full day of use. They also say any gaps around the sides make them less effective.

GOOD:

Cloth masks. As long as a cloth mask is tight-fitting and made of materials that filter out small particles, it will offer protection.

According to the CDPH, effective cloth masks have two layers of tightly woven cotton and a third layer of non-woven fabric. That third layer could be a mask filter insert or a synthetic fabric like polypropylene.

Nose wires to close gaps around the top of the mask and adjustable ear loops or straps to keep it tight-fitting also help make a cloth mask more effective.

Health officials say masks are more important than ever with omicron, saying the newer, highly mutated strain means more vaccinated people will get infected compared to Delta and earlier variants.

These are the latest Alabama mask requirements, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website. For more information on masks and vaccines or boosters in the state, visit the ADPH site here.