Researchers find that wearing 2 masks is ridiculously effective against COVID-19

cdc recommendation wear
Photo via Ninian Reed/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection commented on new findings about the protection offered against COVID-19 by wearing two masks. While the agency didn’t make an official recommendation, it did underscore the findings publicly. 

A Feb. 11 CNN report noted that, according to new CDC data, wearing two masks blocks 92.5% of potentially infectious particles from escaping an infected person, more than double the protection a single mask offers at around 42% of particles. 

What’s more, should an infected person encounter another person and they’re both wearing two masks, 96.4% of particles are blocked. 

“These experimental data reinforce CDC’s prior guidance that everyone 2 years of age or older should wear a mask when in public and around others in the home not living with you,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said in a White House briefing.

Her recommendations called for masks having two or more layers, completely covering the wearer’s nose and mouth, and fitting snugly against the nose and the sides of the wearer’s face. 

The CDC also discussed the advantages of “knotting” a mask. The procedure, which CNN said “involved folding mask edges inward and knotting ear loop strings to flatten excess fabric and reduce gaps on either side of the face,” provides more protection. 

The article maintains it blocks 63% of particles that could contain the coronavirus from escaping, compared to the usual 42%, and when both an infected and uninfected person knot and tuck their masks, the cumulative exposure is reduced by 95.9%

The Washington Post remarked that the guidelines “also represents a new administration’s effort to present clear masking guidelines after mixed messaging and the politicization of the issue appear to have bewildered many Americans.”

It went on to add that at the start of the pandemic, “health officials did not urge their use because of concerns health workers would be unable to get them. Even after health officials reversed course last April after realizing that people without symptoms were driving the virus’ spread, President Donald Trump refused to wear a mask and ridiculed those who did. In part as a result, many Americans still disdain them.” 

NPR advised, via Virginia Tech researcher Linsey Marr, that double maskers start with a surgical mask closest to the face, preferably made of polypropylene, with a cloth mask over it. Piling on masks is inadvisable because if a person’s masks become too hard to breathe through, air will leak in and out through the sides. 

“Then it’s like you have a hole in your mask,” Marr observed. 

Mask wearers can also get similar protection to double masking by wearing a filter inside a mask, such as PM2.5 carbon filter or a fabric store material called spunbond which is made with polypropylene. 

While KN95 masks purport to filter out at least 95 percent of small particles, their efficacy varies, and NPR notes that there are a number of fake KN95s on the market, providing the FDA’s list of approved masks. (Scroll to Appendix A to see the approved list.)

CNN cited an Axios-Ipsos poll showing an all-time high of 72% of Americans say they wear a mask at all times. 

Sources: CNN [1] [2], Washington Post, NPR, FDA

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