Dr. Fauci Says Double Masking "Makes Common Sense"—Here's How to Do It Comfortably
As the country begins to see the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, we are also facing several variants of the virus that are believed to be more contagious and potentially even more deadly. The U.K. and Brazil variants have already been detected here in the U.S., and there is now a series of travel restrictions being put into effect to prevent the even more serious variant from South Africa from taking hold here.
As doctors and scientists are telling us, this may get worse before it gets better. We are months away from enough widespread vaccine distribution to reach herd immunity and begin to see real mitigation, which means that in order to stay safe, experts are recommending a strong recommitment to caution and doubling down on masking.
The new guidance out of the CDC says that while masks combined with social distancing have always been the best first defense against the disease, selecting masks with two or more layers will offer significantly better protection. Essentially, by layering two masks, you are mimicking the effectiveness of real PPE.
Don't take our word for it, just listen to Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "It just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective," Fauci told NBC's Today show earlier this week about using doubled masks. "That's the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95."
The average person does not need the level of PPE that medical professionals or frontline workers need, according to the CDC. But they do need stronger protection against the ongoing virus than single masks provide.
Linsey Marr, Ph.D., an expert in virus transmission, recently told AARP, "A mask is like an obstacle course for particles to get through." Marr, who is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, says a second mask "increases the chance that the particle will be trapped before it gets through."
So, your best bet is to follow a simple set of practices:
- Stay home as much as you can and limit your excursions to only essential work or errands, and try to avoid contact with people who do not live in your household. If having groceries or supplies delivered is an option, now is the time to exercise that option. If it is not available to you, try and do shopping that will cover your household for a minimum of one week (two is preferable), so that you are not spending a lot of time in stores.
- Wear two masks, layered, for maximum protection, and be sure both of the masks always cover both your nose and mouth. The recommended combination is a disposable three-layer surgical-style mask first, with a fabric mask over the top to help seal around the edges and sides. The fabric masks should be washed after every use, the paper masks discarded after one use.
- Continue to be diligent about the best practices of social distancing when outside of your home with a minimum of 6 feet between you and other people, keep up your hand-washing and not touching your face, and be sure you are sanitizing surfaces of things like your phone that you take out of your home.
The Best Face Masks for Layering
Best Disposable Three-Ply Masks
For your disposable three-ply mask layer, we like this one from Magid (buy it: $25 for 50 masks on Amazon). It has a moldable nose bridge and comfortable elastic ear loops and will provide that important three-layer protection closest to your nose and mouth, giving you your best shot at trapping any tiny particles that make it through your fabric mask.
Best Fabric Masks
For your fabric masks, think about comfort, and make sure they have a good seal around the sides to help prevent particles from sneaking inside. They should be machine washable. Be sure to have enough so that you can wash them after each wearing.