Story at a glance
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that using a surgical mask beneath a cloth mask and tucking in the edges can protect the wearer and others.
- More contagious strains of COVID-19 are circulating in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends wearing two masks or even a more tightly-fitted surgical mask to vastly increase protection against COVID-19, following new research from the agency Wednesday.
The CDC found that wearing a tightly fitted surgical mask or layering a surgical mask under a cloth mask reduced the transmission of the virus by 96.5 percent.
Ensuring the mask fits snugly on the face, completely covering the nose and mouth, is critical, the CDC says. Public health experts recommend using a mask with a flexible nose wire, a mask brace and layers for optimal protection.
During a White House press briefing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky underscored the importance of this extra step as more transmissible COVID-19 strains are circulating in the U.S.
“With cases, hospitalizations and deaths still very high, now is not the time to roll back mask requirements,” she said according to The New York Times. “The bottom line is this: masks work and they work when they have a good fit and are worn correctly.”
Tightening the strings of the mask by knotting and tucking the corners and ear loops on each side of the mask can also help seal out any aerosol particles.
COVID-19 cases spiked to record-highs in the U.S. over the 2020 holiday season, carrying over into the initial weeks of 2021.
The past two weeks have seen notable declines in new cases, deaths and hospitalizations, based on national data. Still, 79,179 people remain hospitalized across America due to COVID-19. To keep this high figure suppressed, experts are imploring the public to continue adhering to mask-wearing.
“Any mask is better than none,” John Brooks, lead author of the new CDC study, told The New York Times. “There are substantial and compelling data that wearing a mask reduces spread, and in communities that adopt mask wearing, new infections go down.”
The CDC does recommend against certain mask-wearing habits, including combining two surgical masks and using another mask along with a KN95 mask.