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This Mask Trick Offers More COVID Protection, Says Yale Doctor

A Yale doctor discusses the advantages of doubling up.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek
A young woman is considering whether to remove the medical mask after the end of the quarantine due to the coronavirus.

In less than a year, the use of face masks has become a common part of life for people around the world, with health organizations—including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—strongly urging their use. "Masks are an additional step to help prevent people from getting and spreading COVID-19. They provide a barrier that keeps respiratory droplets from spreading," the CDC explains on their website, where they detail the types of recommended masks and how to wear them. Over the last few weeks, as the mutated, more transmissible variants of COVID have been spreading across the country, some people are concerned that their previous masking habits aren't offering enough protection. Now, instead of wearing one mask, some people are opting to double up. How effective is this? Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with David Mulligan, MD, chief of transplant surgery and immunology at Yale Medicine and professor of surgery at the medical school, to find out. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

Two Masks Have a Few Advantages

Dr. Mulligan explains that wearing two masks offers a few advantages. "First, it prevents air leaks because more material is around your mouth and nose," he says. "Second, there are more layers, and the more layers you have, the more barrier protection you have."

During an interview with Today on Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also confirmed that "it likely does."

"This is a physical covering to prevent droplets and virus to get in," he explained. "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. And that's the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95."

Even if you don't opt to double up, Dr. Mulligan warns against using a single layer mask. "Whether you're using a disposable one or a cloth one, a single layer mask like those neck gators are absolutely not enough," he says. "If you can hold your mask up to the light and see the light through it, it's not really doing its job." 

He says to make sure you have a really nice fit on the bridge of your nose, and around your cheek/jawline, "because that's where the leakage occurs and that's where those particles can get out."

If your mask doesn't meet these requirements, wear two. "Either a single multilayer 2 or 3 ply mask (paper or fabric with filter) or double masking to ensure you have enough layers are definitely the way to go!" he says.

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How to Stay Safe During This Pandemic

Follow Fauci's fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask (or two!), social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.