Double masking can block 92% of infectious particles, CDC says

Is it time to wear 2 masks? Here's what local experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are saying

Residents in the Southland and across the country have been urged for almost a year to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID- 19, but federal health authorities today said people should consider wearing two.

"A "simulated breathing experiment" shows that surgical masks on their own block 42% of COVID-19 particles for the wearer, and cloth masks block about 44% of particles", claims the report, published for the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The segment also quoted Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as agreeing that "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". Surgical masks have three of those five layers.

According to the health authority, you can either "double mask" by layering a cloth mask over a surgical mask, or add something else on top of your mask to enforce the outer seal and prevent air leakage or gaps, like a mask fitter or a sleeve made of sheer nylon hosiery.

Dr. Thomas Marcellino, Douglas County's health officer, said strategies such as double masking have increasingly been on people's minds. If a mask has too many layers and is hard to breathe through, then people will likely suck air in from the sides of the mask, which will defeat the goal of wearing one, she said.

Is it time to wear 2 masks? Here's what local experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are saying
Local reaction to CDC's recommendation to double mask

A family walks wearing masks in Downtown Los Angeles on March 22, 2020, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The CDC also recommends tying knots on the ear loops of medical masks to provide more protection by pulling the mask closer to the face. Doing so, research suggests, drops the likelihood of virus transmission to more than 95%, particularly when mask straps are knotted around the ears for a tighter fit.

Two new variants of COVID-19 have been detected in Hawai'i to date, including the B117 variant, which has been proven to be up to 60% more contagious than the initial strain.

Should new COVID-19 variants send the number of cases in Douglas County in the wrong direction, and should the hospital become overwhelmed, Marcellino said the health department might need to recommend double masking. First, make sure it fits snugly on your face, and that there are not gaps around the nose, side or neck that could let air with respiratory droplets leak in and out around the edges.


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