The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently studying the effectiveness of double masks – specifically a cloth mask placed over a medical mask – in stopping coronavirus spread but does not yet have “hard data” to support whether it’d be better than using a single mask.
“We don’t recommend for or against double masking,” Dr. John Brooks, the CDC’s chief medical officer of COVID-19 response, said. “We want to put out there all the options that are available to people. If we can get people to mask period, that is the first big step.”
Brooks, who was participating in the Infectious Diseases Society of America briefing on Friday, said the agency would “share the information” as soon as possible. He said that some evidence suggests that using a cloth and medical mask could block over 90% or more of virus particles, which would be near the level of protection that N95 masks offer.
“All of you know wearing masks remains a key part of public response to COVID-19,” Brooks said, in his opening remarks. “CDC recommends all persons over the age of 2 should wear a mask in public settings and around people outside of your household.”
Recently, top experts, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, have been touting the effectiveness of two masks versus one in recent days to help stop the spread of virus.
“If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” Fauci said while appearing on TODAY this week. “And that’s the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of N95.”
Currently, the CDC only recommends N95 masks for health care personnel.
Brooks added that the agency is continuing to evaluate the effectiveness of different material combinations, and cautioned that sometimes more doesn’t necessarily equate to better, referring to the example of multiple condom use. However, if using a double mask makes a person feel safe and results in another person practicing mask use, he doesn’t foresee it as an issue.
“If double masking is an option that they would adopt to using a mask, I would endorse it wholeheartedly,” he said.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told NBC’s “Today” on Friday that 59% of Americans are wearing masks right now.
“There are different kinds of quality masks and our recommendation is a multi-layer cloth mask or procedure mask or medical mask, certainly N95s offer the best filtration but in fact they’re very hard to tolerate for long periods of time, and I think the difference between a two-layer cloth mask and a N95 is relatively small compared to the difference between getting 41% of the American population masked.”
She said one cloth mask refers to two or three layers.
When asked on Thursday if the CDC had planned to issue new guidance regarding double masks, a spokesperson directed Fox News to the agency’s current guidelines, which recommends “wearing masks with two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric.”