You need face-masks to go out and get groceries, run errands, and to just be seen in public. The truth is that masks have become a daily part of our lives and it looks like they’re here to stay, with some even suggesting that wearing two masks is better than wearing just one. But is that true? And what’s the science behind all of it? We’re here to give you the simplified answers that experts have shared within the last week.
Why are masks so effective?
Since the start of the pandemic, researchers specializing in epidemiology and physics agreed that wearing masks was one of the most effective ways to curb the spread of Covid-19. With studies showing that "face masks were 79 percent effective at blocking transmission from infected people to their close contacts", it’s no surprise that the use of masks has been correlated with the curb of infections and deaths. One study showed that the constant use of masks in some countries allowed for an early return for business and educational activities.
But what really makes masks so effective at stopping the spread of Covid-19? First we have to understand that Covid-19 is a respiratory virus and it gets transmitted through blobs of spittle and spray that enter our airways, mouth and nose. And it’s these airways which masks can protect by inhibiting the passage of small particles containing the virus. But even then, some studies have found that the common cloth masks are at least 50% effective at covering the “inbound or outbound spray”
Should you wear two masks?
Some experts, such as Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor to U.S President Biden, have suggested wearing two masks instead of one. As one expert on virus transmission at Virginia Tech, Linsey Marr explained that layering masks it even harder for virus particles to reach your face. Because masks have multiple layers and act as an obstacle course, virus particles aren’t able to keep up with the twists and turns of the fibers and ultimately get trapped.
Some experts are suggesting ways to a surgical mask first and layer on with a cloth mask for an extra layer of protection.
What’s the best option?
While wearing two masks may seem a bit extreme and uncomfortable, experts have suggested making other smaller adjustments to improve fit and efficiency such as securing a firm fitting nose bridge or wearing an adjusted mask with no gaps.
In the end, a snug fitting mask with multiple layers is better than wearing a single layer mask, according to Julie Swann, a professor at North Carolina State University who has studied mask effectiveness. A four layer mask is more likely to make a difference than common masks that only offers half the filtration, so you may not have to worry about doubling up in the long term.