Along with the second wave of COVID-19, a new mask trend has been seen across the nation: double masking—the idea of wearing two masks for better protection against the virus. Most healthcare workers have been wearing two masks since the beginning of the pandemic to avoid getting COVID-19 from patients; however, now many more people are doing it as well. National Football League (NFL) coach Bill Belichick, actor Tom Cruise, and politician Pete Buttigieg are inspiring others to double mask to be safer. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have also been seen double masking in public.
Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only recommends wearing a cloth mask made with two or more layers, and ensuring it covers your nose and mouth. They are studying whether wearing two masks is more effective than wearing just one. Other researchers say that wearing a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask provides maximal protection since the surgical mask can act as a filter and the cloth mask adds an additional layer and extra coverage.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Biden, said on the TODAY show that it is common sense to wear two masks. He explained how “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. That’s the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95.” Dr. Fauci also told TODAY that he often double masks because he feels safer.
There have been some suggestions that wearing two non-N95 masks will give the same protection as wearing one N95 mask. Researchers are still looking into that idea because N95 masks also have other mechanisms that can prevent viruses from getting through. Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech engineering professor supports double masking and said that she “think[s] we’re hearing about double masking now because of the new [coronavirus] variants which are more transmissible than the original version. With every layer that we add to a mask, it’s like adding an obstacle course that the particles have to get through.” N95 masks are the most protective out of all masks because they can block 95% of particles, hence the name. They are also limited to mostly health care workers and essential workers because they are at risk of getting the virus at work. If wearing two masks can offer the same protection as an N95 mask, more people might start double masking.
Dr. Dara Kass, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, treated COVID-19 patients, had the virus, and supports the idea of double masking. She explained in a tweet that “if you are in a high risk area and you are unvaccinated, double masking is the way to go.” In a Washington Post article, the writer said that “the difference is like getting two recommended doses of coronavirus vaccines instead of one — the additional mask offers more complete protection against the virus.” Since the country has more COVID-19 cases now in the second wave than during the first wave, double masking is a good idea for those who have compromised immune systems.
At the end of the day, whether one wants to double mask or not, it is their choice, however, double masking may help prevent the spread of the new COVID-19 variants that are more contagious and it may be safer for those with compromised immune systems.