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CDC Says Your Face Mask Needs This Now

The agency updated its advice on masking. The takeaway: Fit matters.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its advice on face masks to stop the spread of COVID-19. The source: A study the agency conducted to see if double masking or other tweaks could block more of the respiratory droplets that cause coronavirus, better protecting both mask wearer and those around them. What they found is that yes, double masking helps, and fit matters. Researchers found that making simple changes to the way masks are worn could almost double the wearer's protection against COVID-19. Read on to find out what their suggestions are, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.


First, The Basics

Woman wearing an anti virus protection mask.

Despite the results of the study, the CDC does not yet officially recommend double masking. Instead, "When choosing a mask, look at how well it fits, how well it filters the air, and how many layers it has," the agency says, advising that you choose a mask that fits snugly over your face, and one with layers that can intercept respiratory droplets on the way in or out. "A mask with layers will stop more respiratory droplets getting inside your mask or escaping from your mask if you are sick."


Cloth Mask Over Medical Procedure Mask

woman wearing two medical masks at the same time.

In a lab test involving dummies, the CDC found that a cloth mask with a disposable surgical mask underneath reduced exposure to droplets by about 90% when both dummies were outfitted that way. (Previous estimates of how protective a cloth mask alone is to the wearer were about 40% to 50%.) "The second mask should push the edges of the inner mask against your face," the agency says. 


Medical Procedure Mask With Knotted Ear Loops

Face mask with a knot.
Eat This, Not That! Health

The CDC found that knotting a single surgical mask where the ear loops join the mask, then tucking and flattening the extra mask material close to the face, also provided protection against droplets of about 90%. 


Mask Fitter

The CDC also recommends using a mask fitter or brace under a mask; this can help air from leaking out around the sides.


Nylon Covering Over Mask

Woman wearing a nylon layer over a face mask.
Courtesy of Loretta Fernandez, Northeastern University

Additionally, the agency now recommends wearing a nylon sleeve over a single mask and pulling it up toward the face; this blocks more virus "by fitting the mask more tightly to the wearer's face and reducing edge gaps."


What Not to Do

Friends meeting in public during virus outbreak

The agency does not recommend wearing two disposable masks at once, as they're not designed with a tight enough fit. It also advises against combining a KN95 mask with any other mask; those types of masks should be worn alone.

RELATED: If You Feel This, You May Have Already Had COVID, Says Dr. Fauci


How to Survive This Pandemic

A family walking holding hands wearing face masks in the middle of pandemic

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.