What to know about layering up with double masks to avoid COVID-19

You might start seeing more people wear double masks, and the philosophy behind that is that layers provide greater filtration and better protection, according to a Maryland infectious disease expert.

“Additional layers provide additional filtration, and therefore protection to the mask wearer,” said Dr. Gregory Schrank, an infectious disease physician and associate epidemiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

“From these masks, whether it be multilayer, multilayer with a filter placed in between, or multiple masks — that protection afforded by having multiple layers and additional filtration is really what we see as a benefit to the mask wearer,” said Schrank, who is also an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Schrank stressed that masks should fit firmly with no gaps along the bridge of the nose, cheeks or chin.

“But, we want to make sure the mask is comfortable, as well, for people, so that they are more likely to wear it and continue to use it throughout the day,” he said.

Schrank does not recommend wearing gaiters that are typically made of thin cloth and might hang down the neck loosely.

“The degree of filtration from wearing those is much reduced,” he said.

Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that during cold weather, balaclavas, scarves and ski masks are not substitutes for masks. It recommends wrapping your scarf, or wearing a ski mask or balaclava over your mask.

You can find comprehensive mask wearing guidance on the CDC website.

WTOP has contacted the CDC for comment on whether it’s in the process of developing mask filtration standards.

Even though vaccinations against COVID-19 are underway in Maryland, Virginia and D.C., Schrank said it’s unlikely the area will begin to see an effect on community transmission until a much larger portion of the population has been vaccinated.

Citing Israel as an example, Schrank said a very large percentage of the community there has been vaccinated, and there’s some suggestion it may be beginning to have an impact on transmission.

But the U.S. still has far to go.

“So, until we get to that point, continue good adherence to masking and physical distancing — and the other guidance we’ve been recommending throughout the pandemic is so important, especially as we see these potentially more transmittable strains emerge in different parts of the world,” he said.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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