‘Double masking’ recommended by Virginia Tech expert for high-risk places

Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 10:38 PM EST
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - With the presence of new variants of the coronavirus around us, it might be time to upgrade your mask-wearing habits. Scientists are now recommending doubling up on masks.

Dr. Linsey Marr studies aerosols as viral pathogens and how they move through the environment, and she says the best way to pull off the double mask is putting a surgical mask on first, then covering the gaps with your cloth mask.

In a new video on social media, Marr calls for double masking—or shorthand for improving the filtration and fit of our masks.

“The vaccine is being distributed but at the same time we have new, more easily transmissible variants of the coronavirus,” Marr said.

She said in higher risk places like the grocery store or public transit, you should consider wearing something that has good filtration and that’s breathable.

“Surgical masks are really good at filtering, but they don’t fit really well,” Marr said. “There’s inevitably gaps around the sides, but if you put a tight-fitting cloth mask over that then you can get the benefit of great filtration of the surgical mask combined with the good fit from the cloth mask.”

According to Marr, we want to wear the best mask possible to protect ourselves and others, since COVID variants spread more easily, meaning it needs to cover both your nose and mouth.

“It almost defeats the purpose of not wearing a mask because we breathe a lot through our nose so you’re not getting any protection there and you’re not blocking anything coming out of your nose,” she said.

Marr said we will soon start to see masks being sold that indicate how efficient they are. She suggests one that is ASTM Certified—level one is good, but levels two and three are better.

“I know the advice on masks, it seems like it keeps changing, but it’s because we’re learning more about how the virus spreads and how masks work,” Marr said. “I promise you we’re not going to get to the stage of triple masking. There’s diminishing returns when you add more layers and if it gets too hard to breathe in then you’re going to get more air leaking in from the sides.”

Marr said a cloth mask alone might be 50 percent effective, but if you combine two, it could have up to 75 percent efficiency.

She recommends washing cloth masks every few days. You can store masks in a paper bag or leave them in sunlight for an hour to kill germs.

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