If you’ve been paying close attention to pandemic expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and you’ve been masking up, you might have noticed officials belonging to the freshly minted Biden administration going above and beyond by wearing not just one masks, but two — one on top of the other — since the Inauguration. And if you’re wondering whether official directives might have changed with regard to mask wearing, they haven’t; well, not exactly.
In an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, Dr. Fauci says that double masking “likely works” because masks are physical barriers that keep potentially infectious droplets, and the virus those could carry, from getting into our systems and getting us sick. “If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely will be more effective, and that’s the reason why you see people double masking, or doing a version of the N-95,” Dr. Fauci explained.
Dr. Fauci’s input on wearing two masks is worth considering, particularly with the news that more contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus have been spotted in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, and closer to home in California (via USA Today). He also told Guthrie on The Today Show that vaccine manufacturers are already working on creating booster shots that will help keep the inoculations effective against COVID-19.
Wearing two masks could be a good idea under certain circumstances
There is a practical reason why double masking could be a good idea. As The New York Times points out, there is a need to think about the kind and quality of the masks we are using to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe against this potentially deadly virus that continues to spread across the country.
Because not all masks are created equal, you might want to double up on yours, especially if you’re not entirely certain about the quality of the masks that you might be using. The latest research on masks and mask wearing urges us to remember that the quality of your mask matters, and that better filters mean better protection against the coronavirus.
So, what exactly do you need to know when choosing a mask during the pandemic? Keep reading to find out some key tips.
Certain masks work best against the coronavirus
A study done earlier by scientists at Virginia Tech and reported by the New York Times pointed out that the best mask “has two tightly woven layers of outer material with a filter material sandwiched in the middle.” The study suggests you make use of masks that are made with material that features tight weaves and also fits your face better, and that face shields should be used with a mask, since the plastic barriers don’t offer much protection — if at all.
If masks don’t appear to work, it’s because they are either too thin, or wearers don’t use them properly. Still, “Something is better than nothing,” Dr. Linsey Marr, who was part of the research team, told the New York Times. “Even the simplest cloth mask of one layer of material blocks half or more of aerosols we think are important to transmission. If you go to a tighter weave and more layers, you’ll get even better performance.”
Double masks and N-95s only work if you wear them properly
One doctor thinks venturing out into the public wearing two masks may be a bit much, because doubling up on masks doesn’t exactly mean you’re doubly safe from the new coronavirus variants. Dr. Graham Snyder of WakeMed tells ABC News, “[Wearing two masks] will decrease the transmission of the virus by a small amount. [But] it’s, it’s not going to make it to zero and it’s not going to be a big jump, but it would help a little bit more.” There’s also the added grief of finding that it might be too difficult to breathe if you have two masks on so you’re tempted to not wear any masks at all. His advice: go ahead and pull two masks on — but only if you’re able to keep them on.
And before you think about heading out and buying a stock of high-performance, medical-grade N-95s in place of wearing two masks, consider this advice from Baltimore’s former health commissioner, emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen. “You could have a very good N95 mask, but let’s say that somebody isn’t wearing it properly or is only wearing it 50 percent of the time. I would rather that someone wear a surgical mask or cloth mask 100 percent of the time, correctly and consistently,” she tells NBC.
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