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CDC Report: Double-Masking Can Block More than 90 Percent of Viral Particles

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday that wearing a double layer of face masks, specifically a surgical mask under a cloth one, can block about 83 percent of viral particles from an unmasked individual.

What We Know:

  • The new CDC report found that “simulated breathing” experiments, surgical masks alone blocked only 42 percent of the viral particles that are deemed to be the “most important for transmitting SARS-CoV-2.” Wearing just a cloth mask alone also did not protect much, only blocking about 44 percent from an unmasked person.
  • The Food and Drug Administration also says on its website that surgical masks “do not provide complete protection from germs and other contaminants because of the loose fit between the surface of the mask and your face.” They recommend adding a cloth mask over the surgical mask or knotting and tucking the mask to eliminate open gaps.
  • “We know that masks work,” Dr. John Brooks, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC and co-author of the new report, told NBC News. “This is about how to help them work better.” Brooks said the study focused less on the masks’ materials and more on masks’ fit.  “Both of those proved effective in the experimental simulations that we ran,” Brooks said regarding the new suggestions.
  • Additionally, as more people begin to double mask, the amount of protection is significantly increased. According to the report, if two people are both wearing either the knotted and tucked surgical masks or double-masked, exposure to viral particles was cut by more than 95 percent.
  • However, the new CDC recommendations are being questioned by other experts, given that many Americans can barely manage to wear one mask properly. “My concept of double masking is you wear a mask, and I wear a mask,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. “If we’re both wearing a mask, we will be double masking, and we will be both protected.”

The CDC’s website was updated Wednesday with the latest information on masks.

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