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Double-Masking: CDC Studying If It Helps Stop COVID-19

N95 Mask. Image: Creative Commons.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that it is studying the effectiveness of double-masking, or the wearing of two face masks at once, which may offer even more protection against spreading and contracting the novel coronavirus.

“We don’t recommend for or against double-masking,” Dr. John Brooks, the CDC’s chief medical officer of COVID-19 response, said during the Infectious Diseases Society of America briefing on Friday.

“We want to put out there all the options that are available to people. If we can get people to mask period, that is the first big step.”

He added that once “hard data” is attained, the agency would quickly “share the information” with the public.

Despite the lack of data surrounding double-masking, Brooks went on to say that if using two masks at once makes one feel safer and drives more mask-wearing compliance, he doesn’t foresee it as a problem.

“If double-masking is an option that they would adopt to using a mask, I would endorse it wholeheartedly,” he said.

Other notable health experts, such as White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, have given their stamp of approval for double-masking.

“If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on it—just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor on COVID-19 said in an interview earlier in the week on NBC’s “Today.”

“And that’s the reason why you see people either double-masking or doing a version of an N95.”

Previously, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases had long asserted that wearing goggles or an eye shield, in addition to a mask or covering, would provide better protection against the coronavirus.

The CDC has already recommended wearing a face mask that covers both the nose and mouth, but it has admitted that the virus has the potential to also enter through the eyes.

Dr. Dave Hnida, a medical editor at KCNC-TV in Denver, contended that there is indeed evidence that using two masks at once offers even more protection against the virus.

“It has been backed up by research that two masks are, in fact, better than one,” the practicing physician 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 CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, 59 percent of Americans are wearing face masks or coverings regularly.

“There are different kinds of quality masks and our recommendation is a multi-layer cloth mask or procedure mask or medical mask—certainly N95s offer the best filtration—but in fact they’re very hard to tolerate for long periods of time,” she said Friday on “Today.”

“And I think the difference between a two-layer cloth mask and an N95 is relatively small compared to the difference between getting 41 percent of the American population masked.”

A study conducted last year found that surgical masks, made of three layers of nonwoven fabric typically made from plastic, are about 50 percent effective at protecting the wearer from other people’s aerosols and between 60 percent and 70 percent effective at protecting others.

According to the CDC, masks should have two layers of breathable fabric, with a snug fit covering both the nose and mouth.

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.

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Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

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