For the US CDC, two masks are better than one

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By: Jeet Ghosh

Last Update: 2021-02-22 01:41:32 IST

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Wearing cotton masks on surgical masks increases adherence and filtering capacity. It will serve against the variants.

Two masks hinder the circulation of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus better than one. This is stated, data in hand, by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which however have not published official recommendations on the subject - it would be enough, not even too much between the lines , that all citizens wore at least one . 

The CDC scientists wanted to experimentally verify the opportunity to wear one mask over the other, a hypothesis debated for some time and returned to current after a recent television interview with Anthony Fauci: the immunologist declared that a multi-level coverage layers such as that offered by two overlapping masks should offer more effective protection. The jungle of fibers in the fabric of the masks creates a sort of obstacle course for infected respiratory particles ( droplets and aerosols ): it is therefore plausible that an extra barrier makes things even more difficult for the virus, which is starting to circulate in the USA too. with variants more easily transmitted.

The researchers placed two artificial heads capable of simulating aerosol production 1.8 meters apart. The presence of a single mask (tissue or surgical) on the first head blocked about 40% of the infectious particles emitted with a sneeze, preventing them from reaching the second. However, when another fabric mask was worn on the surgical mask, 80% of respiratory particles were blocked.

When only the "recipient" was protected by masks, exposure to aerosols was reduced by 83% with the double mask, and by 64.5% by making the surgical mask only adhere very well to the face. However, when both heads wore two masks, more than 95% of the particles were shielded.

The study has the limit of having only tested this type of combination (surgical + tissue) in a single order and with a single brand of protective equipment, but still gives evidence of increased efficacy. No method is perfect or offers total protection: the double mask has the "disadvantage" of thickening the tissues above the nose and mouth and for some it could hinder breathing or create difficulties in peripheral vision.

The key message is that masks are indispensable , and they work well if they fit snugly to the face and have good filtering capacity. Where it is not possible to use the FFP2, more expensive but with a higher degree of protection, the double mask could be a solution. But without exaggerating: the reason why an official recommendation has not been issued is that those who already do not wear a mask (in the USA, about half of the population) will hardly be convinced to wear two.

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