Coronavirus: Why You Soon Might Be Wearing Two Masks
February 10, 2021 Topic: Public Health Region: Americas Blog Brand: Coronavirus Tags: CDCMasksDouble MaskingCoronavirusCOVID-19

Coronavirus: Why You Soon Might Be Wearing Two Masks

The new variants of the coronavirus spread more easily, so enhanced protection is called for.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that double-masking, or the wearing of two face masks at once, can provide extremely high levels of protection against spreading and contracting the novel coronavirus.

The agency’s researchers said they explored the overall effectiveness of various masking approaches via laboratory experiments, which found that when an individual wears just one mask, either surgical or cloth, it blocked about 40 percent of the viral particles.

However, wearing a cloth mask on top of a surgical mask was able to block about 80 percent of particles, while 95 percent was blocked when both individuals wore two masks, the researchers added.

The study also discovered that a tighter fit can markedly improve the overall effectiveness of masks. One particular way to improve the fit of medical masks is to make sure they are “knotted and tucked”—which can be achieved “by bringing together the corners and ear loops on each side, knotting the ear loops together where they attach to the mask, and then tucking in and flattening the resulting extra mask material to minimize the side gaps,” the CDC noted.

“Wearing any type of mask performed significantly better than not wearing a mask,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday during a White House Coronavirus briefing, adding that “well-fitting masks provided the greatest performance” and that the agency will update its guidance on its website “to provide new options on how to improve mask fit.”

Other notable health experts, such as White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, have given their stamp of approval for double-masking.

“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 advisor on the coronavirus said in a recent interview on NBC’s Today.

“And that’s the reason why you see people either double-masking or doing a version of an N95.”

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.

In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, a Harvard medical expert contended that all Americans should wear N95 masks to help mitigate the further spread of the virus.

There is “no reason any essential worker—and really, everyone in the country—should go without masks that filter 95 percent,” wrote Joseph Allen, the director of the Healthy Buildings program at the university.

One recent study out of the University of Georgia has discovered that even neck gaiters—tubes of performance fabric generally used for running and exercising outdoors—provide a level of protection against the coronavirus that is equivalent to cotton masks.

One-layer gaiters showed a 77 percent average reduction in respiratory droplets compared to no mask, two-layer face masks provided an 81 percent drop, and gaiters that boasted two or three layers (polyester and spandex) offered a 96 percent decrease in droplets.

In another research conducted by Duke University, N95 respirators with no valves garnered the highest score in the study. 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.

Image: Reuters.