Health experts suggest wearing two masks as COVID-19 variant begins to spread


Illustration by Emma Ruck

A graphic of a person wearing a homemade mask. Experts are suggesting people wear two layers of masks as more contagious COVID-19 variants spread.

Andrew Myers, Reporter

As new, potentially more contagious COVID-19 variants spread throughout the country, some medical experts recommend that people wear two layers of masks.

The first case of the United Kingdom B.1.1.7. variant in Illinois was confirmed Jan. 15. In a recent interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, expressed his support for double-masking.

“If you have a physical covering with one layer and you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” Fauci said in a Jan. 25 interview. “That’s the reason why you see people double-masking or doing a version of an N95.”

U.S. officials have discouraged Americans from purchasing N95 masks in order to maintain the supply for frontline medical workers, but some professionals think it is time the U.S. upgrades to medical grade masks. Several European countries, including Germany, recently mandated wearing medical grade masks in public spaces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks have “two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric” because studies of multilayer masks show they can block from 50 percent to 70 percent of fine droplets and particles.

Health experts also point out that double-masking can ease the fit of a mask on an individual.

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