Former FDA commissioner: N95 and KN95 masks are best for Delta variant

As new masks guidelines are expected Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising people to keep wearing masks and to make sure they are good ones.

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Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said Sunday that as cases of the delta variant spreads, not only people who are not vaccinated, but even those who are need to have quality protection when it comes to masking up.

“So, it’s (the delta variant) not more airborne and it’s not more likely to be permeable to a mask. So, a mask can still be helpful,” Gottlieb said during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“I think, though, if you’re going to consider wearing a mask, the quality of the mask does matter. So, if you can get your hands on a KN95 mask or an N95 masks, that’s going to afford you a lot more protection.”

The delta variant is the most prevalent strain of the COVID-19 virus in the U.S. today. The version of the novel coronavirus is far more contagious than the original virus, according to researchers.

“There probably is a higher chance that you can transmit this delta virus than some of the old strains because there’s just more of this virus. The viral levels are higher earlier in the course of the infection,” Gottlieb said.

The Delta variant has been detected in more than 60 countries, and this week accounts for 80% of all COVID-19 infections in the United States, according to the the CDC.

Gottlieb, who is a member of the board of directors for Pfizer, has stressed that those who are fully vaccinated have strong protection from the Delta variant. Those who are not vaccinated are at risk, he said. There have been some cases of “breakthrough” cases of COVID-19, meaning some who are fully vaccinated have contracted the virus.

Even if someone who is vaccinated contracts the virus, the chances of getting severely ill, being hospitalized or dying are low.

Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday he expects the increase of the Delta variant cases to start declining in the next two to three weeks, saying the US has seemed to follow the same pattern as the United Kingdom when it comes to infection patterns.

“I think the more observable trend is what’s going on in the United Kingdom, where cases are clearly coming down at this point. There’s a very clear trend down. It seems like they’ve peaked,” Gottlieb said in an interview on “Squawk Box.”

Variants of viruses are common, and the World Health Organization has identified four “variants of concern” connected to the COVID-19 virus.