CDC Recommends Double-Masking To Protect Against Coronavirus

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study recommending the wearing of a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask as a way to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, as reported by The Hill. The latest update from the agency advocated either that method, known as double-masking, or wearing a tightly fitted surgical mask as the best measures of protection.

In summing up its research, the CDC found that a mask provides better protection when it fits better.

"The effectiveness of cloth and medical procedure masks can be improved by ensuring that they are well fitted to the contours of the face to prevent leakage of air around the masks' edges," the CDC said.

It found as much as a 95 percent reduction in exposure through double-masking or tying the ear loops of surgical masks and pulling the sides closer to the face. The agency also recommended an alternate method of using a "mask fitter," a sleeve made of sheer nylon hosiery worn over a cloth or medical procedure mask, if only a single mask is worn. Overall, the CDC encouraged users to modify their masks to improve protection with materials available to them, as most efforts provide an improvement of the base protection of a single mask.

Aster Mekonen with housecleaning services removes her two masks and PPE after cleaning and disinfecting a room that previously contained a patient with COVID-19 in the acute care COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center on May 7, 2020 in Seattle, Washington.
Getty Images | Karen Ducey

Speaking to reporters, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky made it clear that the study does not signal a shift in the agency's overall guidelines on wearing masks, just an improvement for when masks are required.

"I want to be clear that these new scientific data released today do not change the specific recommendations about who should wear a mask or when they should wear one, but they do provide new information on why wearing a well-fitting mask is so important to protect you and others," she said.

The standard guidelines require that a mask has two or more layers, is large enough to cover the nose and mouth, and can fit snugly against the nose and face. The CDC also made it clear that the results should not be used to make assumptions on the strength of surgical or cloth masks. The study was conducted in a lab using one type of medical procedure mask and one type of cloth mask, and the agency warned that results in the outside world may not reach the same effectiveness.

Despite any concerns, the agency reiterated that masks provide the best protection against the coronavirus until the majority of the population is vaccinated.