How to Double Mask: The New PPE Recommendation Explained

It’s not a mandate and it hasn’t been officially backed by a scientific study, yet, but a notable health expert – who you may have heard of by now – Anthony Fauci, MD, is calling it “common sense” to maximize protection from Covid-19 transmission by doubling up on your face masks.

Fauci, an American physician-scientist and immunologist serving as the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, has gone on record with his new advice for ramping up protective efforts, now that new mutated and more contagious strains of the virus have begun to spread.

So, what exactly should we be doing with our masks and why are we now finding out that more than 1 layer of protection may be necessary? Here is everything you need to know:

Medical Grade vs. Cloth

You may remember reports about a major shortage in personal protective equipment (or PPE) for doctors, nurses and other frontline workers when the Covid-19 virus first started to spread in the US, one year ago. This included crucial N95 and medical grade, surgical masks and subsequently lead to the popularity of reusable cloth masks, which were quickly becoming available to all citizens while allowing us to preserve the former for the healthcare workers who needed them most, according to Advisory.com.

The newly recommended cloth masks, when paired with responsible social distancing and hand hygiene was and still is touted as a highly effective method for preventing the spread of coronavirus. However, as time has allowed the virus to mutate into more than one new, more contagious strain, new recommendations imply medical grade masks are more effective at preventing spread than cloth.

According to Advisory.com, board experts now say, “While cloth masks ‘definitely help reduce transmission of the coronavirus from the wearer and likely protect the wearer to some degree as well’ they don’t work as well as medical-grade masks”. Here are the facts:

As of now, N95 masks, which filter 95% of particles, are not recommended for public use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because these masks are critical supplies for the nation’s healthcare workers. That leaves KN95 and disposable, surgical masks which are available to the pubic and seemingly more effective than cloth.

According to the Mayo Clinic and Health News Hub, a surgical mask – which is a loose-fitting medical grade, disposable mask that protects the wearer’s nose and mouth from contact with droplets, splashes and sprays that may contain germs – offers about 62% to 65% filtration when worn properly. A surgical mask also filters out large particles in the air by reducing exposure to the saliva and respiratory secretions of the mask wearer. This would place the surgical mask at #2 on the list of the most effective pieces of wearable PPE – or would it?

In a recent study by Health News Hub, some homemade cloth masks actually achieved better filtration, at 79%, in a peer-reviewed study. In the study, the best cloth masks were made of heavyweight quilter’s cotton with a thread count of 180 or more. Masks with even thicker thread and double-layers also proved effective. So what does this mean? It means layers matter!

Layers Matter

We can pit different types of masks against each other and argue about the absence of cold hard facts – in truth, scientists and medical experts have been learning about this virus as they fight to combat it while also trying play a role in the necessary efforts to preserve crucial supplies for healthcare professionals, so the argument might prove futile – but the one clear piece of information that has emerged from these findings is that the most effective method of prevention and protection comes from layering.

How to Double Up

  • If your cloth mask has multiple layers and/or an inserted filter, you are likely using the most effective piece of PPE available to you, outside of N95 and even KN95 face masks. Kudos to you!
  • If your cloth mask does not include a multi-layer construction, you may want to consider wearing 2 or including a surgical mask underneath, which may prove to be more comfortable.
  • By adding a surgical, disposable mask underneath cloth, you can double up on protection and also get a better fit on the surgical masks, which can sometimes present gaps. According to WebMD, Anthony Fauci, MD has been quoted, “Double layering is adding extra filtration, but a lot of the benefit also comes in making sure you are covering those gaps around the mask, because not every mask you put on fits equally.” The correct method here is to don a surgical mask first and then layer your cloth mask on top of it.

Remember to keep practicing social distancing and hand hygiene to achieve the best level of prevention. Please contact our team at 800.378.6376 for information and advice concerning any of the protective face masks we currently offer.

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