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Now Is The Time To Start Double Masking

Global coronavirus deaths have been falling—but scientists are worried that new variants of the virus may reverse those trends.

Why to start double masking

Some of these new variants, like one from the UK, are more infectious and take a smaller viral load to cause a full body invasion. 

Scientists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have started researching whether or not wearing two masks may be more beneficial than one alone. Some high-profile figures, including Anthony Fauci, the head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are already doubling up.

“With a more transmissible virus, that means every exposure has increased likelihood of leading to spread,” says Andrea Love, an immunologist and microbiologist. “We must be more stringent with our behaviors now, including social distancing, minimizing trips to public places, avoiding indoor spaces and always wearing a mask.”

How masking works

“But, not just any mask will do,” Love emphasizes. “Quality matters.”

Masks work by trapping and blocking respiratory droplets that contain virus particles, Love explains. “The more physical barriers implemented, the more of these droplets you can block, thereby reducing the risk to yourself and others around you,” she says. Ideally, the more layers the better, especially if you’re wearing a thin cloth face cover.

When to wear two masks

If you’re walking outdoors and aren’t in proximity to people outside of your household, a single mask should suffice, Love says. If you plan to be near people who aren’t in your household, however, even outdoors, “a simple solution is to double-mask.”

Will wearing two masks make it hard to breathe?

Even with two face masks, you’ll still be able to get the oxygen you need and dispel carbon dioxide from your body. Two masks might not feel comfortable at first, but it’s still safe to wear them.

Sure, it may take some getting used to, especially if you wear two masks while exercising. You may get sweatier than usual as the weather warms up. But a little discomfort is a lot better than contracting COVID-19 or being responsible for spreading it.

How to properly double-mask

If you wear a cloth mask on top of a surgical mask, you can mimic the filter-cloth combo found to be more protective in studies. The surgical mask acts as a filter and the cloth mask provides an additional layer of protection while improving the fit, Love says. If your two masks fit well, this combination “should produce an overall efficiency of over 90% for particles 1 micron and larger, which corresponds to the average size of respiratory aerosols that are most important in mediating transmission of SARS-CoV-2.”