The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says to stem the spread of COVID-19, all Americans should wear a mask.
The New York Times says 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 writes.
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.
Still, the CDC declares that “studies demonstrate that cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration, including filtration of fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns. The relative filtration effectiveness of various masks has varied widely across studies, in large part due to variation in experimental design and particle sizes analyzed.”
While the Times says the best masks remain N95s, which filter out 95% of particles and droplets, “layering two less specialized masks on top of each other can provide comparable protection.”
“Dr. Marr recommended wearing face-hugging cloth masks over surgical masks, which tend to be made with more filter-friendly materials but fit more loosely. An alternative is to wear a cloth mask with a pocket that can be stuffed with filter material, like the kind found in vacuum bags. But wearing more than two masks, or layering up on masks that are already very good at filtering, will quickly bring diminishing returns and make it much harder to breathe normally,” the paper writes.
In October, president-elect Joe Biden was seen wearing two masks as he traveled to North Carolina for a campaign stop, a cloth one overtop a paper medical mask.
“Biden, who was photographed wearing a white mask under a Navy blue one, was joined by Hunter’s teen daughter, Finnegan, just days after her father’s emails made national headlines,” the Daily Mail reported. “Finnegan also appeared to be wearing a white mask under a Navy blue one that read: ‘Vote.’”