Answers to need-to-know questions about N95 masks

NOW: Answers to need-to-know questions about N95 masks

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The city of Milwaukee gave away 500,000 N95 masks in less than 48 hours, and more free masks are expected to start being given out on Thursday.

We've had a lot of viewer questions at CBS 58 about N95 masks.

What's the difference? How long can you wear them? Do they really work? How do I know mine is working?

We asked CBS 58's Facebook followers to send in their questions about masks.

A viewer who got her hands on some of those free masks wanted more people to know you can't just throw an N95 in the wash like a cloth mask, something backed up by medical professionals.

"A lot of times it's not unreasonable to use this for routine use for a week, maybe even longer if you're not using them much. I use it when I got to the grocery store or when I got to a meeting in public or things like that, but between that I may reuse the same mask for weeks, keep one in the bag, one in the car, whatever it is," said Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee County chief quality health advisor. 

Other viewers asked how N95s work differently than other masks.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, unlike cloth masks, the N95 is rated to block really small particles, with 95% efficiency in blocking particles 0.1 to 0.1 micrometers in diameter.

COVID-19 at its smallest is point-one micrometer in diameter, but usually is attached to water droplets hundreds or thousands of times bigger.

You can test this yourself -- try shining a light through a cloth medical mask verses an N95 and see how much less light comes through.

Now, put on each mask and breath out hard, feeling for air around the mask.

We'll work to keep you updated as other communities announce opportunities for people to get ahold of N95 masks.

You can find a list of approved N95 masks by clicking here.

CBS 58 News also looked into ways to get ahold of N95 masks if you don't want to wait. You can check it out by clicking here.

To learn more about the difference between KN95 and N95 masks, click here.

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