This week the The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released findings that double-masking – wearing one face mask over the other – may be effective way to reduce transmission of the coronavirus which causes COVID-19[female[feminine. It’s a practice that experts have been pondering for a while now, with President Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci advocate double-masking back in january. Now, CDC lab tests show that double masks can reduce the likelihood of coronavirus transmission between two people by up to 95% if both parties wear them correctly.
Now that masks are (finally!) Required on public transport and federal premises, the CDC updated its mask guidelines to include advice on double masking. Here’s how to make sure you get the perfect fit.
Start with a disposable medical mask or an N95 mask underneath. Then add a fabric mask on top. As with any mask you wear, the most important thing is to make sure both masks fit properly. Both masks should cover both your nose and your mouth. Ideally, the internal medical mask will have a nasal thread to provide a good seal against your nose, and the fabric mask will bring the internal mask closer to your face and provide a tighter fit.
Try to take a deep breath as you feel the edges of the stack of masks. If hot air escapes, adjust the mask until there is a tight fit all around the sides. Try using a mask with a nasal thread, as they do a much better job of forming a seal around your nose and mouth.
In general, if the mask just isn’t working or you find yourself constantly adjusting it, it might be time to try a different brand or cut.
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The report released by the CDC this week wasn’t just about double masking. He also reported results on the effectiveness of a technique of medical masks known as tying and folding.
Disposable masks are designed to prevent aerosol particles from coming out of the user’s mouth and also to protect against splashes. They are not designed to provide a perfect seal, which means the sides tend to hang down and open. This is bad news if you are trying to block a virus that can airborne.
According to the CDC’s findings, tucking in these sides can significantly reduce the risk of exposure. To do this, fold the mask in half so that the top edge meets the bottom edge. Next, tie a knot in each of the earrings, keeping the knot as close as possible to where the strings connect to the mask. After making the two knots, take the excess fabric rolled up on the sides of the mask and tuck it inside the mask. Make sure there is no space next to the knots where air can enter and exit. Finally, try on the mask to make sure the mask still provides the right coverage from your nose to chin. The technique is a bit tricky to describe, so here is a short video that shows it.
Whether it’s knotting or double masking, there are a few important caveats to note here. First, all of the CDC’s tests were performed by pairing 3-layer cloth masks with medical masks – the agency has made no statement regarding the stacking of two cloth masks. He also recommends avoiding double masking with two disposable masks, as wearing two won’t make them fit better. Additionally, these methods have not been tested with children or people with beards or other facial hair. Smaller and / or more hairy faces will require extra effort to create a proper fit. (Side note: our picks for the best children’s masks are Here. Sorry, beards, you might have to shave it already.) And when you’re done with your disposable mask, be sure to get rid of it properly. It goes in the trash, not in the recycling bin or on the floor.
Even though double-masking may offer better protection against Covid exposure, it is not a substitute for others pandemic precautions. The CDC performed its tests in a lab by simulating a coughing person (or “foldable elastomeric headform” as they hilariously call it), so it’s not a perfect analogue for a real human. So stay diligent. Avoid crowds, stay six feet apart, and wear your mask in public, even outdoors.
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