Should You Wear a Double Mask for Preventing COVID-19?

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Since the past months, vaccine distribution programs for coronavirus have started in many countries around the world. While the newly approved coronavirus vaccinations can help in ending the pandemic, experts have stated that following guidelines for prevention still remains to be an integral part of the procedure. In fact, it is now recommended that people take additional steps for protection such as wearing double masks.

Although research on coronavirus spread has shown that people with regular jobs can also opt for fabric masks, being extra cautious reduces the risk of contracting the virus even more. To do so, health agencies have suggested buying high-quality double or triple-layered masks.

Another solution that will provide maximum protection is buying an N95 mask. However, there is a shortage of N95 masks in the market since the early days of the pandemic. Because they are an important part of the PPEs or personal protective equipment used by doctors and frontline healthcare workers, it is better to leave N95 masks for them.

Instead, leading health experts, including  Linsey Marr, who is a  professor of engineering at Virginia Tech with a specialization in airborne virus transmission. During an interview, Marr specifically highlighted how a double mask can stop any virus particles that managed to get in even from the first layer.

Last year, Marr also authored a paper that showed a well-fitted two-layer fabric mask or a high-quality surgical mask can effectively block ninety-percent of the virus particles. The protection level provided by either is nearly as high as professional-grade masks.

In addition, the leading infectious disease expert in the US and the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci also promulgated a similar idea while advising the general public to choose double-layered masks, especially in the colder months.

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Why are two layers more effective? The answer is simple. The coronavirus spreads through aerosolized droplets of saliva released into the air from the mouth and nose while doing everyday activities such as talking or singing. These particles are so small that most of the commonly available masks made out of t-shirt material cannot filter them out.

With two-layered masks, there is a lower chance of the particles making it through the mask, which is why it is better and gives more protection. Wearing a double mask in case a double-layered mask is not available or affordable is also equally effective.

Also, along with the layers, make sure to also check the fitting of the masks. An ideal mask would not be too tight but also not too loose. According to experts, the fitting should feel ‘snuggly’ on the face. It should also cover both the nose and mouth properly.

Do not take off and put on the masks before washing hands properly or using a hand sanitizer and do not leave the masks on a surface in a public place such as a bench in the park. If using reusable masks, washing them regularly. Similarly, do not forget to discard and replace disposable masks on time.


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Abeera I. Kazmi

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