If you don’t know by now, double masking is the newest iteration of face covering suggestion and is, as the name suggests, the idea of wearing more than one face mask. The trend more or less started, when Dr. Anthony Fauci went on NBC’s TODAY and said “it makes common sense” that wearing more than one mask would be more effective.
In a recent commentary, Linsey Marr, an expert in virus transmission at Virginia Tech echoed Fauci, writing “if you combine multiple layers, you start achieving pretty high efficiencies” of blocking viruses.
The idea stems from getting closer to the effectiveness of an N95 mask, without taking away supply of the coveted mask from healthcare workers who need it most. But what kind of masks are best for double masking?
Marr said people can get protection by wearing a cloth mask tightly on top of a surgical mask. These surgical masks can easily be bought in bulk on Amazon, while brands like evolvetogether have started rolling out more “fashionable” versions, as well. It’s also worth mentioning that the CDC guidelines suggest cloth masks to have two to three layers. Dr. George Rutherford, a Professor of Epidemiology at UCSF, told The Daily Beast: “Double masking is probably marginally more effective than single masking (e.g.with a surgical mask), but I think our larger public health concern is people who don’t wear masks at all.”
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So, we know that in theory that two masks well-fitting are better than one, but is it worth it?
The newest CDC report explains that it's a little more complicated than just wearing two masks. The study pitted two dummies against each other using a “simulated breathing” experiment and concluded that double masking had "had reduced exposure to infectious aerosols by 95 percent" when both dummies had two masks on, while two face coverings on one dummy with the other exposed "reduced their exposure by 83 percent." But none of this matters if people aren't wearing tight-fitting, properly affixed masks (or masks at all).
Dr. David A Larsen, an Associate Professor of Public Health at The University of Syracuse echoed this, saying, “The more stuff we put in front of our mouth/nose to filter the air the safer we’ll be from COVID-19. As a policy, however, double masking is not worth pushing. We will save more lives if we put energy into wearing any mask, vaccine distribution, and contact tracing.”
In short, wear a mask, two if you’re feeling fancy, but just make sure it fits right.
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