By Quinci LeGardye, California Black Media
Since President Biden’s inauguration, people have been raving about the “riveting” inaugural performance – and equally enchanting Super Bowl appearance — of former Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles Amanda Gorman. Beyond her gripping poetry and captivating sense of fashion, another Gorman style that has been catching media attention is her choice to wear two masks at once — a decorative cloth mask strapped over a plain surgical one.
Now, it seems, double masks have been popping up everywhere, quickly becoming the newest trend in fashion-aware COVID-19 protective wear. Several lawmakers and celebrities have been spotted wearing two masks at once in public.
Then, last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that found that double masking can drastically reduce the spread of COVID-19 particles, both for the wearer and for those around them.
According to the CDC research, the effectiveness of cloth masks and surgical masks that fit more loosely than N95s can be improved by either wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask, also known as double masking. To tighten the mask combo, knot the ear loops of a surgical mask where they attach to the edges of the face covering and tuck in and flatten any extra loose material close to the face.
For double masking specifically, the study tested combinations of common surgical and multi-layer cloth masks by stimulating coughing between pairs of dummies in a laboratory. When a cloth mask was worn on top of a disposable mask, 92.5 percent of cough droplets were blocked, versus 42 percent of droplets when just wearing a disposable mask.
The study also reiterated that universal mask-wearing is a highly effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19, in addition to physical distancing, avoiding poorly ventilated indoor spaces and good hand hygiene. Universal mask-wearing has been one goal of the new Biden administration. Federal health authorities have mandated wearing masks in public settings, including planes, airports, buses and other forms of public transportation and transportation hubs, as of Feb. 1.
At a White House COVID-19 briefing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said, “I want to be clear that these new scientific data released today do not change the specific recommendations about who should wear a mask or when they should
wear one. But they do provide new information on why wearing a well-fitting mask is so important.”
According to the updated CDC guidelines, effective masks both fit snugly against the wearer’s face and has layers to block COVID-19 particles. The two ways to layer that the website recommends is either wearing a cloth mask with multiple layers of fabric, or wearing a disposable surgical mask underneath a cloth mask. The website also points out that people should not layer two disposable masks on top of each other, or combine any mask with a KN95 mask. The authentic KN95 mask itself should be enough coverage.
For a closer fit, the CDC suggests choosing masks with a nose wire that can be adjusted for a snug fit, or to use a mask brace to improve the fit.
Before the new CDC announcement about mask wearing on Jan. 25, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC News’ TODAY that it is likely that double masking provides more protection than wearing one mask.
“This is a physical covering to prevent droplets and the virus to get in. 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. That’s the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95,” said Dr. Fauci.
If options are scarce, or two masks are not available, researchers have recommended wearing a cloth mask with a pocket that can be stuffed with filter material, like the kind found in vacuum bags. For a test to see if the mask is effective, try to blow out a candle while wearing it. If the mask is effective, the candle won’t go out.