A layered debate: some experts recommend double-masking to prevent COVID-19
HALIFAX -- Over the last year, masks have become a part of our everyday life.
Information surrounding mask wearing has been ever evolving throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as officials have gone from not recommending masks to making them mandatory in many places.
Now, new research from the United States says two masks are better than one.
“This includes wearing a mask with a moldable nose wire, knotting the ear loops on your mask, or wearing a cloth mask over a procedural or disposable mask,” says Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that wearing one mask -- surgical or cloth -- blocked around 40 per cent of the particles coming toward the head that was breathing in. When a cloth mask was worn on top of a surgical mask, about 80 per cent were blocked.
When both the exhaling and inhaling heads were double-masked, more than 95% of the particles were blocked, said the CDC report.
But some Canadian infectious disease specialists say there is no evidence to suggest wearing more than one mask is more effective.
“I think that when you look at this and the big picture, what you really want to be doing is actually wearing a mask at the right time. Indoors, wearing it properly, and wearing it all the time when you’re around other people indoors,” says Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, a Toronto based infectious disease expert. “If you wear more than one mask, no one is going to shame you, but just remember that wearing the mask period is where you want to be.”
Canada has not addressed the practice of double-masking, but in November, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer recommended wearing three layers.
"To improve the level of protection that can be provided by non-medical masks or face coverings, we are recommending that you consider a three-layer nonmedical mask, which includes a middle filter layer, said Dr. Theresa Tam on Nov. 3, 2020.
Tam said there is no need to throw all of your other masks out, but recommended looking into buying a disposable filter to insert between the layers.
“A medical mask is fine to wear, but I think we need some standardization on what constitutes a good mask,” says Chakrabarti.
Some Maritimers say when it comes to the mask debate, they are not convinced two is better than one, and will wait for more research to be released.
“I work in the public eye, so wearing a mask for me is vital,” says Joanne Ozon from Shelburne, N.S. “Not necessarily doubling up on masks, but wearing a mask properly, making sure that it’s up over your nose, and masking sure that it’s properly fitting.”
“Double masking is ridiculous, what’s next, triple masks?” asks Liverpool, N.S. resident Jeff Sponagle. “I would be more concerned about keeping the mask you have on clean, and perhaps an N95, a better mask.”
“If you sneeze, you’re not touching your mask. If you do change your mask, wash your hands. Change your mask and wash it everyday. I really think that’s going to be far more effective than layering up multiple masks,” says Stephanie Jackson, a Dartmouth based mask maker.
Whether you are wearing one mask, or two, experts say to remember that masks do not 100 per cent protect us from the virus, and it is crucial that we continue proper handwashing and physical distancing.