Should you wear two masks? It depends on who you ask but some health experts say double-masking offers more protection against COVID-19.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday that wearing two masks is likely a more effective way to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Although the rate of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is on the decline, Fauci cautioned everyone not to get complacent and to continue taking safety measures especially now that a faster-spreading strain is circulating throughout the country.
Geisinger spokesman Matt Mattei, however, said there is currently not enough evidence to suggest that wearing two masks protects against COVID-19 transmission better than wearing one mask.
“What’s important is that everyone in our community wear a properly fitting, appropriate mask as we continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 together,” Mattei said. “Masks should fit snuggly and cover the mouth and nose and while some masks are more effective than others, depending on the material, any mask is better than no mask at all.”
The state Department of Health has not issued guidance on wearing two masks but deputy press secretary Maggi Barton said if someone wears two masks, it would provide them another layer of protection and “ensure their germs would not expose others.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current recommendations regarding masks are that they should fit properly, be made of breathable, tightly woven fabric and have two to three layers of material.
“One might consider wearing a disposable mask under a cloth mask for further protection,” Barton said.
Dr. Mark Schiowitz, a general surgeon for 30 years and chairman of the Critical Care Committee at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, said he and other frontline health care workers at the hospital wear N95 masks for maximum protection and they wear surgical masks over them to keep them clean.
If someone doesn’t have a high-quality mask, he said adding a second layer could help.
“If you have a high-quality mask you’re trying to keep clean and you put a second mask in front of it, it helps keep the surface of your main mask clean so it makes some sense,” he said.
Schiowitz said almost any mask that someone chooses to wear, whether it’s a cloth mask or a surgical mask, can protect others.
“Masking is patriotic because you’re taking care of your neighbors and you’re taking care of your family,” he said. “If you add another layer, it probably adds a little more protection.”
If wearing two masks makes it difficult for someone to breathe, however, Schiowitz said they probably shouldn’t do it.
To protect against COVID-19, he said everyone should continue practice social distancing and avoid crowds.
“If you’re sick, isolate yourself,” he said. “I don’t advise that everybody try to get N95 masks because they’re hard to come by and they’re expensive but if you’re in a very high-risk situation, you would like to have better protection.”