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Scientific authorities agree that face masks help limit the spread of COVID-19, but some people, err on the side of caution by wearing two face masks. This raises the question: Does wearing more than one face mask actually provide additional protection? Find out below whether you should wear more than one face mask.
Why face masks prevent COVID-19 transmission
Although face masks don’t offer complete protection against COVID-19 transmission, they can be effective when in the proximity of someone who has COVID-19. For example, in May, two hair stylists were infected with the novel coronavirus in Springfield, Missouri. The salon adhered to its local required mask policy, and the infected stylists interacted with 139 clients for an average of 15 minutes for eight days. An investigation was conducted with 67 clients, none of whom contracted the virus.
Two masks may only sometimes matter
Wearing N95 masks or surgical masks is proven to significantly decrease your risk of contracting COVID-19. Wearing a second mask on top of either of these types of masks, however, may be overkill.
That said, if you only have access to cloth masks, it’s better to have more layers. According to a leading health website’s interview with Dr. Tania Elliott, M.D., an immunologist at New York University Langone Health, multiple cloth layers and two cloth masks can be beneficial. Layering cloth masks may reduce the chances of respiratory droplets containing COVID-19 from reaching the air.
Two masks might require more cleaning
In her interview, Dr. Elliott further explained that respiratory droplets can get caught in between two masks. As such, if you decide to double up on cloth masks, avoid setting your masks down on any potentially contaminated high-contact surfaces. Most importantly, you should regularly clean both of your cloth masks to avoid touching, and thus potentially spreading, COVID-19.
Two masks resemble two layers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people who wear cloth masks purchase masks that provide two or more layers of breathable, washable fabric. Cloth masks should fit snugly on the sides of your face without any gaps and completely cover your nose and mouth. However, if you don’t own a two-layer mask, wearing two masks is a substitute for one mask’s double-layered protection.
Wearing two masks can preserve other masks
Although wearing two masks may not always be entirely necessary, it’s an adequate way to protect yourself and conserve personal protective equipment (PPE). If you have a limited amount of disposable surgical masks and two cloth masks, you can sometimes use two cloth masks so you less frequently need to buy disposable masks.
Additionally, not only does wearing two cloth masks preserve surgical masks, but it helps to preserve N95 masks. In some areas, the supply of N95 masks is very limited, so wearing two masks can help both you and other people in your community.
How much longer will we need to wear masks?
Until a COVID-19 vaccine is readily available and widely accessible – and perhaps for many months after – it will remain necessary to wear a face mask in public. If you’re wondering if your cloth mask isn’t quite up for the job, you may feel safer wearing two.