MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Two years into the pandemic and most of us have gone through what feels like hundreds of face masks, but what face mask will give you and your family more protection?

This week, the Shelby County Health Department reported more than 2,500 new active cases and more than 570 of those are pediatric cases. With the new Omicron variant causing COVID cases to surge, people are being urged to continue masking up.

“Everyone needs to be masking up, especially if you’re going to be indoor public spaces where you don’t know the vaccination status of other,” said Health Department Director Dr. Michelle Taylor. “You may think wearing a mask is not going to make a difference, especially in the surge we’re going through but it will protect you, your family and community members.”

Many doctors say better protection means changing the type of mask you wear. Health experts like Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Stephen Threlkeld say your best option, if you can find them, is using the N-95 mask.

“If you’re around somebody that’s at high risk to exposure or if you have to take care of somebody in your family or go to take care of a loved one that otherwise can’t make it without your assistance, it’s very helpful to wear an N95 Mask,” he said

A lot of people prefer cloth masks because they’re more comfortable but they can only block larger droplets of COVID-19, and not necessarily smaller aerosol or particles they carry.

“If you’re around a group of people who are wearing cloth masks, you’re not getting a lot of protection from them and these days if you’re around a group of 12 people at a social gathering, it’s very high likelihood one of those people is infected,” Dr. Threlkeld said.

He said those who really need the N-95 masks are those with the virus.

“It’s helpful to have people with the disease and sometimes they don’t know they have the disease wearing as good a mask as they can have and certainly a surgical well-fitted paper mask as opposed to a cloth mask,” he said.

Finding and buying N-95 masks isn’t always easy because they’re in short supply and it’s also important to make sure your masks are not counterfeit.