Double-masking offers more protection from COVID-19, says US CDC

Feb 11, 2021

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You might already be wearing two masks, but science now backs it up: double-masking is the way to go.

New research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask, which is known as double masking, could reduce exposure to COVID-19. According to the CDC, exposure to COVID-19 was reduced by up to 96.4% when both an infected person and a noninfected person were fitted with double masks or knotted and tucked masks.

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The research also found that knotting the ear loops of a surgical mask where they attach to the mask’s edges and then tucking in and flattening the extra material close to the face could improve the fit of these masks.

The White House COVID-19 Response Team announced the findings during a press briefing on Wednesday.

President Joe Biden made mask-wearing a priority during the early days of his presidency, signing an executive order that made wearing a mask mandatory while travelling domestically and while on federal property. The White House also launched a “100 Days Masking Challenge.” As of early February, just U.S. 14 states and Washington, D.C. had universal masking mandates.

“Research has demonstrated that COVID-19 infections and deaths have decreased when policies that require everyone to wear a mask have been implemented,” said CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky. “With cases, hospitalizations and deaths still very high, now is not the time to roll back mask requirements.”

The CDC is also updating its guidelines on how to improve mask fit. The new guidelines will suggest wearing a mask with a moldable nose wire, knotting the ear loops on your mask or wearing a cloth mask over a disposable mask.

Related: Traveling during the pandemic? It might be time to upgrade your mask

Dr Elaine Hanh Le, the chief medical officer for Healthline, (which is also owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) spoke to TPG’s editor-at-large, Zach Honig, last month about upgrading your mask.

“For the best fit, make sure that the mask fits comfortably but snugly over the nose, cheeks and chin without any gaps,” she said. “Regardless of whether the straps go over the head or around the ears as loops, the main consideration is whether you’d be able to keep the mask on consistently for an extended period of time.”

Photo by Viktor Gladkov/Shutterstock

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