(CNN) –– Wearing a mask is in trend, but not as a fashion statement. It may just save a life.
Now, public health officials suggest wearing a double mask as a way to increase the level of protection against the coronavirus. And also against its many variants that are more contagious.
“If you have a physical protective covering with one layer, you put on another layer. It is just common sense to think that it is probably more effective. That’s why you see people double-masked or doing a version of a N95 (mask). ” This was pointed out by Dr. Anthony Fauci, now chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, in conversation with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have been wearing double masks for weeks. In fact, Biden was often seen wearing a surgical mask under his black cloth cover before taking office.
On the day of the inauguration, Biden’s pick for transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, and her husband, Chasten Buttigieg, took a double-mask selfie. Also, poet Amanda Gorman wore a surgical mask under her Prada face shield during the event, where she declaimed a poem.
Republican Senators Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio were seen wearing double masks on Capitol Hill in mid-December 2020.
Layer of protection: the effectiveness of the double mask
A single layer mask is not really effective at blocking aerosols, some have revealed studies. Even two- and three-layer homemade fabric masks are only partially protective, with an effectiveness range of 50% to 60%.
Surgical masks, also called medical grade masks, are made of three layers of non-woven fabric, usually made of plastic. The colored top layer is made from medical grade spunbonded polypropylene. That is, a heat bonded resin polymer in a network-like structure.
A 2020 study found that surgical masks were about 50% effective in protecting the user from other people’s sprays. Meanwhile, they were 60% to 70% effective in protecting others.
But put a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask and you have “greater than 91% particle removal efficiency,” Joseph Allen noted in a recent interview. Allen is an associate professor at Harvard University’s TH Chan School of Public Health and director of the Healthy Buildings for Schools program.
In mid-December of last year, Linsey Marr, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech and an expert in aerosol transmission of viruses, posted a comment with Dr. Monica Gandhi, professor of medicine at UCSF / San Francisco General Hospital. , in which asked to use a double mask.
“For maximum protection,” Marr and Gandhi suggested that people could “wear a tight-fitting cloth mask over a surgical mask.” As they explained, “the surgical mask acts as a filter and the cloth mask provides an additional layer of filtration while improving the fit.”
They also pointed to a second option. A three-layer mask made of a flexible, tightly woven fabric that conforms to the face, with an insert of a ‘high-efficiency non-woven filter material’, such as a vacuum cleaner bag, could be used.
Of course, the best face covers for protection are the masks type N95. This product is made of woven fibers with an electrical charge that can trap errant particles. It’s a lot like how a sock sticks to a blanket in the dryer. Similar products include the Chinese KN95, the European versions FFP1 and FFP2, the Australian and New Zealand P2, the Korean First Class and the Japanese DS2.
Consider switching from a cloth mask to a surgical mask. Or from a surgical mask to a N95 / KN95 or equivalent if available. Having better masks can help us reduce the risk of more contagious strains “, tweeted Dr. Tom Frieden this Monday. Frieden is the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Consider upgrading from a cloth mask to a surgical mask, or from a surgical mask to an N95/KN95/equivalent if available. Better masks may help reduce risk from more-contagious strains.
– Dr. Tom Frieden (@DrTomFrieden) January 25, 2021
But the CDC does not currently recommend N95 masks for the general public. In part, due to a shortage of masks for healthcare workers. Also because of the concern that people do not tolerate masks, as they can make breathing difficult.
“I’m concerned that if we suggest or require people to use N95, they won’t use it all the time,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new CDC director, told Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, both of CNN, during a forum on Wednesday.
“It’s very difficult to breathe when you wear them (the masks) correctly,” Walensky said. “They are very difficult to tolerate when you use them for long periods.”
Proper use and care of your mask, double or not
Regardless of which mask you use, make sure you do it correctly, even if you have a double mask. Don’t leave your nose uncovered in either layer. The two masks should pass over the bridge of the nose, under the chin and be flush with the face, resting along the skin, experts explain.
When you choose your fabric mask, you should look for a tight weave, according to studies. Use the light test to verify the fabric. If you can easily see the outline of individual fibers when you hold the mask up to the light, it may not be effective.
And be sure to clean and dispose of your masks properly. Surgical masks are for single use only. And if they are dirty or difficult to breathe, the mask should be disposed of and replaced with care, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.
CDC recommend Store dirty cloth masks in sealed plastic bags until you can wash them.
«Wash wet or dirty masks as soon as possible to avoid mold growth. Wet masks can be difficult to breathe and are less effective than dry ones, “the CDC noted.
Dry the mask completely in a warm or hot dryer, the CDC said, or hang it “in direct sunlight to dry completely. If you can’t hang it in direct sunlight, hang it or let it dry completely.