What Health Officials Are Saying About Wearing Two Face Masks

The coronavirus pandemic has created the necessity of wearing a face covering to prevent transmission of the virus. But does wearing two masks give you more protection? 

“Double masking adds an extra layer of filter, making it even more difficult for the drops of moisture ridden with the virus to get to you or to spread to other,” Dr. Aline M. Holmes, a clinical associate professor at Rutgers University School of Nursing said in an interview with WBALTV

The extra layer of protection could be helpful for people in places that are considered high-risk of transmission like nursing homes and hospitals, according to Dr. Holmes. 

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine says some experts “don’t think it’s necessary.” 

“I’m glad there are some people doubly committed to wearing a mask, but it’s not been studied,” Schaffner said . “Double masking may provide some additional protection in both directions – out as well as in – but it’s not officially recommended by anyone at this time."

Some experts say that it's time to start wearing two masks given the rise in cases.

The effectiveness of wearing one mask has been studied throughout the first year of the pandemic, leading to a national and global push to get everyone masked up. 

Back in May, two stylists who tested positive for the virus saw 67 clients over the course of 8 days. Both stylists and all of their clients wore masks during their interactions. None of the clients who agreed to testing had contracted the virus following their appointments. 

In July, a study was published that showed a significant decrease in virus transmission at a Boston hospital after a universal mask policy was adopted by staff. 

Experts are cautious about recommending two masks for everyone, however, emphasizing that the benefits of double masking hasn’t been studied extensively. But, it might be helpful especially if you’re like most of us wearing non-medical grade face masks.

It's worth mentioning, too, that some medical professionals are wearing two masks as they are on the frontlines of helping patients with coronavirus.

“When I go into a COVID patient’s room, I wear two –– an N95 respirator with a surgical one over it,” Dr. Richard Watkins of Northeast Ohio Medical University said. “When I come out, I throw away the surgical one and keep the N95.” Dr. Watkins’ strategy, he says, is used to protect the N95 which has continuously been limited in supplies. 

Regardless, health professionals say we should all continue to follow guidelines on thorough, frequent hand washing, social distancing and staying safe. 

Dr. Amesh Adalja of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security made these warnings clear: “If you’re doubling up on your mask and still engaging in risky behavior, that’s not going to help you.” 

Photo: Getty Images

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