Wearing two masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has become more than just a suggestion. Several new COVID-19 variants have medical experts and the public concerned about rapid community spread spiking up again.
Some federal courthouses in nearby states have started requiring double masks, and it may be just a matter of time before places in Connecticut do as well.
If you put the two masks on properly, whether it’s a surgical mask with a cloth mask on top, or two surgical masks on top of one another, if both people in close quarters double mask, it can reduce exposure to the virus by 95%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
NBC Connecticut spoke with Karl Minges, chair of Health Administration and Policy at the University of New Haven about how to properly double mask, along with another option if you want more protection, but do not want to double mask.
“You first would start with a surgical mask, you would tie both of the ends, wrap it around your ears, obviously fix the nose piece so there's the contours of your nose and then over top of that you wear your standard sort of cloth mask that I’m sure many of us have several of laying in the house,” Minges explained.
Minges added, “By double masking and having a surgical mask and then over top of that a cloth mask you really are going to prevent your particles from escaping which is really the goal of mask-wearing primarily, and secondarily of course it's from preventing you from contracting COVID through breathing in someone else’s aerosol."
Minges said you should be able to tell when you’re wearing two masks, because you should feel there’s less air coming in, and less going out.
“I think the key to regardless of what type of mask you have is to make sure that the fit is extremely snug.”
There are alternatives to wearing two masks, such as KN95 masks. It’s similar to the N95 masks that frontline first responders and medical professionals use. Many of the KN95s have been manufactured in China, and have received emergency use authorizations (EUAs) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to the pandemic.
“They are very effective and is something that any public health official would recommend just especially because they really fit almost anyone's face quite nicely…it's really best to see what is on the FDA’s website indicating as to whether or not the KN95 mask is approved.”
We tested the KN95 mask and found glasses still fog up with them, but not as much as with a cloth or surgical mask.
Minges explained each KN95 is good for up to eight hours of use.
“If you go and you’re using it one hour one day put it aside just in case if anything gets on it let it rest for a few days and then you can use that again but just keep track so you're not using the same one repeatedly for months on end…if you would light a candle and see if you can blow it out right so that's a good test to know if your mask is doing what it needs to do.”
Whether it’s double masking, or using a KN95, if nothing else, these PPE may just give you peace of mind, Minges said.
“A lot of it's about how safe you feel as an individual walking into a somewhat crowded place like a grocery store it's having the KN95 on or the double masking really helps you feel less vulnerable to getting the virus so it has almost a significant effect on psychology as it does an actual transmission.”