Coronavirus: Should we be wearing two masks when we go out in public?

If one mask is good as protection against the COVID-19 virus, does it stand to reason that two would be better?

Dr. Anthony Fauci says he thinks so.

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Fauci, who appeared on the “Today” show on Monday, said wearing two masks “likely does” provide extra precaution against catching the virus that has killed more than 400,000 people in the United States.

“So 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,” said Fauci, who was part of the Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed and is now a White House adviser on COVID-19. “That’s the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95 (mask),” Fauci said.

Some have noted on social media that several people involved with President Joe Biden’s inauguration were wearing two masks.

Fauci said that masks help stop the spread of disease by preventing respiratory droplets from spreading from one person to another.

But, while multiple masks can help protect you against infection, they can have some drawbacks, as well.

Raina MacIntyre, a biosecurity expert who researches mask effectiveness at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, told NPR that while two masks seem to provide more protection, the temptation to adjust the masks can lead the wearer to touch his or her face more often, and that can increase the chance of bringing a viral particle to your mask or the exposed part of your face.

Add to that, MacIntyre said, the prospect that it will likely be more difficult to breathe with two masks on.

WebMD reported on research in the fall that concluded that two-layer masks could minimize droplet spray from speaking, coughing and sneezing. The website also reminded readers that even with double masks, it is important to remain socially distanced from others and to wash your hands frequently to slow the spread of the infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that wearing multiple masks have been shown to block exhaled particles, cutting the chances that someone who is infected passes the virus along to someone else.

“Multi-layer cloth masks block the release of exhaled respiratory particles into the environment, along with the microorganisms these particles carry. Cloth masks not only effectively block most large droplets (i.e., 20-30 microns and larger) but they can also block the exhalation of fine droplets and particles…” the report read.

“Multi-layer cloth masks can both block up to 50-70% of these fine droplets and particles and limit the forward spread of those that are not captured. Upwards of 80% blockage has been achieved in human experiments that have measured blocking of all respiratory droplets, with cloth masks in some studies performing on par with surgical masks as barriers for source control.

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