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Doctors advise against cloth masks to prevent spread of COVID-19

As the highly contagious COVID-19 omicron variant continues to spread, doctors are advising against wearing cloth masks.

"You want to make sure it’s at least a three layer surgical mask or an N-95 or higher," said Dr. Asha Shajahan, a family medicine physician for Beaumont Health and the medical director of Community Health for Beaumont Grosse Pointe. "We want to make sure it’s not a cloth mask. A cloth mask does not offer protection that you need."

Related: How long do you need to isolate for if you have COVID-19?

Shajahan said a single-layer cloth mask is typically ineffective when it comes to virus particles.

"The purpose for wearing a mask is to offer filtration from the aerosol particles of the virus," she said.

However, if you have no other option but to use a cloth mask, you can improve its effectiveness.

Severe sore throat, runny nose -- omicron symptoms resemble flu, cold

"If you have a cloth mask you want to make sure it’s at least 2-3 layers, but I would recommend getting a surgical mask that actually has the filters built into the material," Shajahan said.

She noted that N-95 masks can be hard to find, but a surgical mask should suffice. 

"If you have a mask at home and you’re unsure, go to the CDC website and look at the mask guidelines," she said.

More: Where to get a COVID-19 test

Also, even if you are vaccinated and have your COVID-19 booster, you should still wear a mask in some settings, Shajahan said.

"I wear my mask in every indoor public setting where I don't know the people that are there. I think that’s just a public health recommendation and I really hope people abide by it," she said.