CDC advises the use of two masks in newly released guidelines

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Samson Li | The Ticker

Farah Javed

The CDC updated their mask guidelines on Feb. 10 to ensure mask-wearing mitigates the spread of COVID-19.

In conjunction with social distancing, wearing a mask with two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric is important because it prevents the user from breathing out their own respiratory droplets or taking others’ in.

Still, if a mask is worn improperly, those droplets escape from the edges of the masks and can spread in the air.

The CDC conducted experiments to determine whether “fitting a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask, and knotting the ear loops of a medical procedure mask and then tucking in and flattening the extra material close to the face” improved the effectiveness of the masks, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The report reveals the modifications worked in reducing exposure to droplets in the air.Following the experiments, the CDC now recommends wearing a mask that “fits snugly against your face.”

That mask should not just fit tightly, but also have layers to it. A person can either use a disposable mask with another mask on top or wear a cloth mask with multiple layers to it. For more effectiveness, one can wear a cloth mask and then a mask on top with a filter.

“If the mask has a good fit, you will feel warm air come through the front of the mask and may be able to see the mask material move in and out with each breath,” the CDC said.

For those not wanting to wear layers, think of it as wearing a blanket in the winter: the more blankets a person puts on, the more warmth he or she will feel by keeping out the cold. Similarly, a mask with multiple layers will keep out more droplets.

In light of these new guidelines, masks with nose wires, the metal part found along the top of some masks, may be a good investment. The metal allows the mask to bend over the user’s nose and conform to the user’s face structure.

Tightening the mask is another way to simply mold it to one’s face.

One method involves tying the masks’s strings behind one’s ears in a taut-line hitch knot. Another method is twisting the mask’s strings right where the elastic meets with the mask. If done correctly, the strings should cross over each other to form an x.

There are also existing products that ensure a mask will stay tight and in place. Ear toggles can be slipped onto the mask’s loops and adjusted to make a mask tighter. Mask extenders reach from one loop, across the back of the head, to the other loop, thus making it impossible for the mask to slide off.

It’s important to note that the CDC does mention some caveats when it comes to mask-wearing.

It adamantly states to not wear two disposable masks, since “Disposable masks are not designed to fit tightly and wearing more than one will not improve fit.” It would be futile to wear two disposable masks since the additional layer provides no protection.

The CDC also states the KN95 mask should not be worn with another mask. “Both masks are rated to capture 95% of tiny particles (0.3 micron particles, to be exact),” according to Smart Air. Since the KN95 maximizes efficiency through keeping particles out, it can also require more effort to breathe. Wearing two KN95 masks would then be laborious and dangerous.

Additionally, it is unnecessary to always wear two masks.

“The two mask situation is really for high risk things. So if you’re going to be in a grocery store for any extended period of time, if you’re going to be indoors with a lot of people who are not part of your household for any extended period of time,” Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said.

The CDC’s guidelines are meant to improve the efficacy of masks in fighting COVID-19; however, it is still unknown whether these updates will effectively mitigate the spread of COVID-19 variants in the United States.

If Americans follow the guidelines and wear their masks snuggly, then the risk of transmission would decrease by 96.5%, according to The New York Times.

Dr. Anthony Fauci echoed medical experts’ sentiments saying “double masking against mutant coronavirus ‘just makes common sense.’”