Fact or Fiction: Does the CDC suggest doubling up masks?

The Dos and Donts of wearing two masks at once
Updated: Feb. 12, 2021 at 6:44 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask protocols this week after research showed that two face masks can be much better than one at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“I want to be clear that these new scientific data released [Wednesday] do not change the specific recommendations about who should wear a mask or when they should wear one,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House COVID-19 briefing. “But they do provide new information on why wearing a well-fitting mask is so important.”

The CDC’s new recommendations show wearing a well-fitted mask is essential to it being effective. First of all, the agency said you should make sure your mask fits snugly. Pinch the nose wire close to your face.

If there’s air coming from the top or sides, the CDC now suggests putting another mask, like a fabric one, on top can help hold it in place.

“A lot of people wear two masks. Sometimes I wear two masks in clinic based on what I’m doing. So it’s perfectly safe to do that,” Dr. Melissa Ellis-Yarian said. She is family medicine doctor with Roper Healthcare.

“Two or three layers is what you want of a tightly woven fabric if you’re wearing a cloth mask. Or if you’re using a surgical mask, those are good too,” Ellis-Yarian said.

Ellis Yarian said a thin mask or a single-layer neck sleeve you pull up over your nose and mouth really won’t cut it.

“I just try to encourage patients to pick a more effective mask because that’s really not protecting you or other people,” she said. “These aerosols, these viral particles, are really small so they can pass through these single layer masks very easily.”

The CDC suggests tucking or folding extra fabric or knotting the ear loops for a tighter fit.

But the agency says not to combine two disposable masks. It’s not effective since they aren’t designed to fit tightly.

If you’re lucky enough to have a K-N95 mask, the CDC says don’t combine that with any other mask.

Experts say you should put on your eyeglasses or sunglasses with your mask and breathe out: If the sunglasses fog up from your breath, your mask may not be as protective as you think.

Ellis-Yarian also advises checking your mask against a light.

“If you hold it up to the light and you can see light coming through it, that’s not going to protect you,” she said.

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