The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conceded Friday that cloth masks are less effective than surgical or respirator masks as protection against COVID-19.

The updated guidance reflects what many public health experts have emphasized throughout the recent surge in cases driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant.

“Loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection,” according to the new guidance issued Friday.

But the CDC didn’t go so far as to say cloth masks are inadequate against this strain of the virus ― something some