The White House adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases addressed possible additional protection from wearing a second mask during an appearance on Today, where he was asked about the effectiveness of layering masks.
“You know, it likely does [increase protection]. Because this is a physical covering to prevent droplets and virus from getting in,” Dr Fauci said.
“So, 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, and that’s the reason why you see people either double-masking or doing a version of an N95.”
During President Biden’s inauguration, for example, attendees including Amanda Gorman and Pete Buttigieg were seen wearing layered masks, with the poet showing off what appeared to be a disposable white mask beneath her sparkly red mask, while the former presidential candidate also wore a surgical mask under a cloth mask.
This is what you need to know about double-masking, and whether you should wear two masks.
How much protection do masks offer?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends that people wear masks that have “two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric,” face masks can block up to 70 per cent of coronavirus particles.
Amanda Gorman in Prada and two masks. Everything. pic.twitter.com/5DmuBVXsYe
— Olivia Singer (@oliviasinger) January 20, 2021
The CDC recommends that individuals wear masks, which protect yourself as well as others, when you are in public settings and when you are around people who don’t live in your household.
The health agency also urges people to wear masks in addition to social distancing, but especially when social distancing is not possible.
Does the CDC recommend double-masking?
Currently, the CDC does not have any guidance or recommendations in regards to double-masking.
However, the CDC does note that how well a mask protects you depends on factors such as type of fabric, the number of layers of fabric, and how well the mask fits, with the agency explaining that it is currently studying these factors.
The CDC also states that the most effective masks have two or more layers and are made of tightly woven fabrics, such as cotton and cotton blends.
Do other experts agree with Dr Fauci?
As of now, preliminary studies have suggested that wearing two masks could be useful in better preventing the spread of Covid-19, especially if the masks are made of flimsy material that may not offer adequate protection on their own.
"If you have a face mask that’s thin, flimsy, falling apart, frayed, or if you put it up to a light and you see light coming through it, it might be helpful to wear another one on top of it,” Dr Abisola Olulade, MD, a family medicine physician told Refinery29.
“It just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective.” -Dr. Anthony Fauci on wearing two masks to protect against COVID-19 pic.twitter.com/Ii7uTOc57A
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 25, 2021
Dr Scott Segal, MD and chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, agreed, telling Health: “Wearing two masks might be a reasonable idea if the filtration capability of the masks isn't very strong.”
However, double-masking may also make it harder to breathe, which could ultimately lead to individuals pulling down their masks and defeating the purpose entirely.
"It's a double-edged sword," Dr Leonard Krilov, MD, chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at NYU Langone Hospital–Long Island told the outlet. "An extra barrier may sound like a good idea, but that extra layer may make it more difficult to breathe, making it more likely that you pull on the mask to breathe better and not keep it adequately in place."
Do you have to wear two masks?
While double-masking may offer additional protection against coronavirus, guidelines in the US do not currently require individuals to wear two masks or double-mask.
Overall, a properly worn face mask with at least two layers should provide adequate protection, according to the CDC, which also advises against wearing surgical masks and respirators that are meant for healthcare workers, as these should be reserved for medical workers.