If you ever thought that wearing two face masks or coverings is better than one, there now appears to be a science-based argument for that.
According to Dr. Dave Hnida, a medical editor at KCNC-TV in Denver, there is indeed evidence that using two masks at once may offer even more protection against spreading and contracting the novel coronavirus.
“It has been backed up by research that two masks are, in fact, better than one,” he said in a recent interview on CBSN Denver.
“Specifically, what we’re saying is that two masks may actually equal the protection you would get from N95 masks, which is considered the best mask there is short of a complete respirator-type unit.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masks should have two layers of breathable fabric, with a snug fit covering the nose and mouth.
Hnida seemed to be a strong proponent of wearing a surgical mask with a cloth one over it.
“The reason for that is you do wind up getting more filtration of viral particles,” he said.
“It becomes more of an obstacle course for the viral particle to make its way from the air into your nose and throat and then into your lungs.”
The practicing physician noted that President Joe Biden has been “double-masking” for months already, as well as coaches of National Football League teams during games.
“Even in my own family, when we have outside contact—as limited as it may be—we double-mask,” he said, adding that wearing three masks might be going too far as it could interfere with one’s breathing.
“So, the question is, ‘Is it effective?’ The answer is ‘yes’—and it’s something you may want to consider.”
On the other hand, “half-masking,” or wearing of a face mask below the nose, likely makes an individual more susceptible to spreading and contracting the virus, according to a study out of the University of North Carolina.
The research findings, published in the journal Cell, suggest that SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—tends to initially become firmly established in the nasal cavity, then, in some cases, the virus is aspirated into the lungs where it may lead to a more serious condition, such as potentially fatal pneumonia.
In another study conducted by Duke University, the researchers there found that not all masks are equally effective.
After testing fourteen common face masks and coverings, the team discovered that neck gaiters scored the worst, while N95 respirators with no valves offered the highest protection. 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.