Two masks are better than one

by Christopher Kim

We may be going back to campus soon! Maybe it will be Fall Quarter 2021; maybe it will be later than that. Regardless, hopefully we have all been vaccinated by the time the University of California officially announces a return to in-person learning.

However, this doesn’t mean everything is 100% safe. According to a recent article, while the COVID-19 vaccine may protect people from the virus, it may not do much to prevent the spread of the virus. That’s why it is imperative to continue to social distance and wear masks — or better yet — wear two masks.

According to CDC guidelines, experts recommend wearing two layers of masks in order to keep respiratory droplets from getting in or out.

Illustration via Adobe Stock

Illustration via Adobe Stock

A study done by the CDC used simulated coughs to test the effectiveness of double-masking. It revealed that while one layer of either unknotted medical or cloth masks respectively blocked 56.1% and 51.4% of cough particles, double-masking blocked 85.4% of particles.

However, there is a “right” and “wrong” way to wear two layers of masks.

The “right” way to wear two layers of masks is to use a mask fitter or brace over your mask to close out any gaps or holes. Alternatively, you could wear a cloth mask over a disposable mask to create a snug fit on your face.

That being said, you should not wear two layers of disposable masks because they are not designed to close out gaps, thus still allowing air to enter and escape.

Furthermore, if you have a specialized mask like a KN95 (Chinese-manufactured mask capable of capturing 95% of particles), the CDC actually does not recommend double-masking at all. According to Sam Barone MD, a chief medical officer of BioPharma, the extreme effectiveness of a KN95 with proper fitting means that “Placing another mask on top of these masks would alter the fit and could result in them being less effective.”

UCLA students should consider all of this before officially returning to campus. We don’t know when this virus will be permanently gone. So even as more and more restrictions are lifted, we must be aware of the risks we may be exposed to as long as COVID-19 exists.

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