White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has given his stamp of approval for wearing two face masks at once, which may offer even more protection against spreading and contracting the novel coronavirus.
“If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on it—just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser on COVID-19 said in a Monday interview on NBC’s “Today.”
Previously, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases had long asserted that wearing goggles or an eye shield, in addition to a mask or covering, would provide better protection against the coronavirus.
“Theoretically, you should protect all of the mucosal surfaces (eyes, nose, mouth), so if you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it,” he said in an interview with ABC News on Instagram.
The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already recommended wearing a face mask that covers both the nose and mouth, but it has admitted that the virus has the potential to also enter through the eyes.
Fauci called the use of goggles and eye shields as “perfect protection” from the coronavirus, but also noted that it’s not “universally recommended.”
Recently, the idea of “double-masking” has gained more traction within the medical community. According to Dr. Dave Hnida, a medical editor at KCNC-TV in Denver, there is indeed evidence that using two masks at once may offer even more protection against the virus.
“It has been backed up by research that two masks are, in fact, better than one,” he said in a recent interview on CBSN Denver. “Specifically, what we’re saying is that two masks may actually equal the protection you would get from N95 masks, which is considered the best mask there is short of a complete respirator-type unit.”
According to the CDC, masks should have two layers of breathable fabric, with a snug fit covering the nose and mouth.
Hnida, also a practicing physician, seemed to be a strong proponent of wearing a surgical mask with a cloth one over it.
“The reason for that is you do wind up getting more filtration of viral particles,” he said. “It becomes more of an obstacle course for the viral particle to make its way from the air into your nose and throat and then into your lungs.”
On the other hand, “half-masking,” or wearing of a face mask below the nose, likely makes an individual more susceptible to spreading and contracting the virus, according to a study out of the University of North Carolina.
The research findings, published in the journal Cell, suggest that SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—tends to initially become firmly established in the nasal cavity, then, in some cases, the virus is aspirated into the lungs where it may lead to a more serious condition, such as potentially fatal pneumonia.
In another study conducted by Duke University, the researchers there found that not all masks are equally effective.
After testing fourteen common face masks and coverings, the team discovered that neck gaiters scored the worst, while N95 respirators with no valves offered the highest protection. A disposable surgical mask made from polypropylene was the next-best option, followed by one made from two layers of cotton and one layer of synthetic material.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.