Dr. Anthony Fauci, who early in the pandemic said Americans need not wear masks, has once again changed his recommendation.
Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who served on President Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force and is now President Biden’s chief medical adviser on COVID-19, now says wearing two masks is likely more effective than wearing one.
“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,” Fauci told NBC News on Monday.
Back in March, Fauci said “there’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.”
“When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is,” the doctor said on CBS News.
But the response to the virus has been evolving since then. Soon after Fauci made his comments, experts — including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — said Americans should wear masks, citing estimates that 40% or more of those infected were asymptomatic but could still spread the virus.
“We were not aware that 40% to 45% of people were asymptomatic, nor were we aware that a substantial proportion of people who get infected get infected from people who are without symptoms. That makes it overwhelmingly important for everyone to wear a mask,” Fauci said in September, noting that “the data now are very, very clear.”
Now, there’s a move on to urge people to wear two masks.
The New York Times said earlier this month that if one mask works, maybe two will be twice as nice.
“Football coaches do it. President-elects do it. Even science-savvy senators do it. As cases of the coronavirus continue to surge on a global scale, some of the nation’s most prominent people have begun to double up on masks — a move that researchers say is increasingly being backed up by data,” the paper wrote.
The Times cites Linsey Marr, an expert in virus transmission at Virginia Tech, who said “if you combine multiple layers, you start achieving pretty high efficiencies” of blocking viruses from exiting, and even entering, the nose or mouth.
Of course, there’s a drawback: “We run the risk of making it too hard to breathe.”
The CDC says COVID-19 spreads “mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets travel into the air when you cough, sneeze, talk, shout, or sing. These droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are near you or they may breathe these droplets in.”
And the federal agency now says that “a cloth mask also offers some protection to you too. How well it protects you from breathing in the virus likely depends on the fabrics used and how your mask is made (e.g. the type of fabric, the number of layers of fabric, how well the mask fits). CDC is currently studying these factors” and says more evaluation is needed.