Double masking for Covid-19 protection: A trend with a objective

Grant Boone
January 31, 2021

Ordinary lockdown measures proved insufficient to stop the spread of the United Kingdom variant, known as B.1.1.7, which initial data suggests is 50 to 70 percent more transmissible than the original strains of the coronavirus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently advised citizens to start double-masking whenever possible to further slow the spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a mask should completely cover your nose and mouth, fit snugly against the sides of your face, doesn't have gaps, and has two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric.

"The experts keep telling us that wearing masks is really about protecting others from ourselves in the event that we are contagious, but you know if other people aren't wearing their masks or they're wearing them improperly, we need to protect ourselves", she said as she began to put a mask on.

One advantage of KN95 masks is that they may be easier to use for the public than the gold-standard respiratory mask used by medical professionals in the USA, the N95 mask.

"Wearing an appropriate mask with a proper fit has been effective to this point in the pandemic and will continue to be effective", said Dr. John O'Horo, infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic.

Still, both surgical masks and cloth face coverings may not be effective in blocking very small virus particles transmitted through coughs or sneezes.

How often should people be washing or replacing their masks? They provide three layers of protection, made of melt-spray filter layer and non-woven fabric.

On Inauguration Day, transportation secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg and his husband took a picture double masking and inaugural poet Amanda Gorman also wore a surgical mask underneath her Prada mask.

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Here in British Columbia, Health Minister Adrian Dix says double masking is up for debate.

She said one cloth mask refers to two or three layers.

As new COVID-19 variants emerge that are potentially more contagious, specialists say that masks are more important than ever because they will lower the spread of the virus regardless of the variant. While N95 masks are believed to be the best in terms of protecting you against Covid-19 as they are said to filter 95 per cent of airborne particles, these are hard to come by. Many healthcare experts warn against wearing more than two masks as it makes breathing hard, which then leads to air and particles entering the mask from gaps along the side.

"Right now, people should not be walking, there's no reason to be walking around with a mask", Fauci said at the time.

So, what is the best way to "double mask"?

"It is not just anecdotal but scientifically proven too that double masking can offer a high percentage of protection", explained Sunitha Posina, MD, a board-certified internist in New York City who works on the front lines with COVID-19 patients. Ferrer said the county's scientific advisory group needed to review guidelines by government occupational safety and health experts on masks and other emerging science.

President Joe Biden has embraced masks as a core strategy for ending the pandemic, mandating face coverings on planes, airports and all federal buildings. The fact that former President Donald Trump was constantly playing down the effectiveness of face masks didn't help either.

Apart from adding an extra layer of protection and helping to hold down the surgical mask better, the top fabric layer also helps to keep the medical-grade mask underneath dry and clean. Cases of the new variants have already been detected in Canada.

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