CHARLOTTE, N.C. — During President Joe Biden's inauguration last month, people spotted several attendees wearing two layers of masks. After being asked about the practice, White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said it was only "common sense" that two layers of protection would be better than one.
Is double-masking more effective at stopping COVID-19 than wearing a single mask?
Yes, two layers of masks can be more effective at blocking respiratory particles than a single mask.
According to a new Centers for Disease Control report, researchers found that a cloth mask over a medical mask blocked nearly 93% of particles from a simulated cough.
That same study found a cloth mask blocked 44% of particles and a medical mask blocked 42% of particles.
Researchers wrote the experiment highlighted "the importance of good fit to maximize overall mask performance."
Dr. Anupama Neelakanta, an infectious disease physician with Atrium Health, said, for those wearing a single mask, the fit is important.
"When you have a mask, you would want it to be two to three layers, breathable fabric, and well-fitting to your face," Neelakanta said.
The CDC study noted it is possible to improve the effectiveness of a single surgical mask by knotting the ear loops and flattening the excess material against the face to make the mask snug.
There was also maximum protection when both particle source and recipient were masked.
"We see so many people not even wearing a single mask correctly. Their nose is exposed. They're wearing the mask under their chin, or it's hanging off of their ear," Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease specialist with Novant Health, said.
"If everyone wore one mask correctly, that would go a long way toward protecting our communities," Priest said.