AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — People have worn all types of masks for months — colorful cloth masks and surgical masks. But, experts say the most protective masks are those that are thicker and fit tighter.

“An N95, K95 or KF94 is better than just a medical grade mask,” Dr. Phillip Coule, the Chief Medical Officer of Augusta University Health, explained.

Courtesy: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

This is why the White House is shipping N95 masks to pharmacies around the country and the CSRA, including CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, Walmart and Sam’s Club. Stores that are distributing them will post a sign out front. Each person can get three masks for free.

“There’s no doubt these masks are more effective as you go up in both fit and filtration efficiency of a particular mask.”

It is that effectiveness that sets N95 masks apart when protecting against the Omicron variant.

“The issue is that people get infected with Omicron because it is more transmissible. It’s estimated to be about 30 to 40 percent more transmissible than the Delta wave. Because of that, there is a lot of concern about people wearing masks that are incredibly ineffective — very thin layers of cloth.”

N95 masks can be uncomfortable for some. Dr. Phillip Coule suggests that each person consider a balanced approach — wearing a mask that is protective and comfortable for them.

“I would encourage someone if they are not wearing a mask, but can tolerate a cloth mask, that that is better than no mask at all. There’s a bit of a tradeoff here.”