To Mask or Double Mask — What’s Best?
To mask or not to mask may no longer be the question. Research has shown wearing a mask can help stop the spread of COVID-19. While most experts agree wearing one mask is better than no mask, a growing body of research is now saying two masks may be better than one if worn correctly.
Experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci have said two masks may provide greater protection from airborne particles responsible for the spread of COVID-19. Research released by the CDC has shown wearing a cloth mask over a surgical one can reduce the wearer’s exposure by more than 95% compared to wearing no mask at all.
Whether wearing one mask or two, recent findings have prompted the CDC to offer new guidance about how to improve the proper fit of your mask:
- Make sure your mask fits snugly. For optimal protection, masks should fit snugly over your nose, mouth and chin. Make sure your vision is not blocked, so you won’t trip and fall, and most importantly that you can breathe easily. Check to make sure there are no gaps around the edges of your mask which can allow respiratory droplets to leak in or out. You can check for gaps by cupping your hands around the outside edges of the mask and making sure no air if flowing from these areas. If the mask has a good fit, you will feel warm air coming through the front of the mask.
- Choose a mask with a nose wire. A nose wire with a metal strip along the top of the mask prevents air from leaking in or out from the top. You should bend the nose wire over your nose to fit close to your face.
- Add layers of material. Use a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric or wear a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask. The CDC warns that wearing more than one disposable masks will not increase efficiency since they are not designed to fit tightly against the face. You also should only wear one KN95 mask at a time and not combine it with any other mask. If you have a three-ply face mask, knot the ear loop where they join the edge of the mask and then fold and tuck unneeded material under the edge.
Even while wearing a mask, it’s important to continue following CDC guidelines to maintain social distancing of six feet or more, to avoid large public gatherings and to continue good hand hygiene by washing your hands for 20 seconds and using a hand sanitizer with 60 percent or more alcohol, if soap and water is not available. Remember to continue wearing a mask even after you’ve been fully vaccinated. While you may have a level of protection from the virus, you could still continue to be a carrier to others until herd immunity is reached.