How to Mask Like Dr. Fauci

CDC Suggest Adding Layers of Protection to Combat the Coronavirus

A masked Pablo Picasso bronze Owl sculpture

By Jesse Sokolow on 12 February 2021
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Fauci watchers may have noticed that the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, who serves as President Biden’s chief medical adviser, has appeared at news conferences and on television interviews wearing two masks.

The simple face mask serves a crucial function in the effort to contain and eliminate the coronavirus: it serves as a barrier that helps prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others, and it also, to a lesser extent, prevents droplets from others from entering your nose and mouth.

But all masks are not created equal.  As researchers have learnt more about how the coronavirus is transmitted, it’s become clear that many homemade masks and even some face masks sold on line and at stores simply aren’t up to the task.

Thin or loose-fitting masks are nowhere near as effective as tight-fitting surgical masks and experts believe that doubling down on face masks – quite literally – will significantly boost the wearer’s protection against contagion.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that wearing a tightly fitted surgical mask, or layering a cloth mask atop a surgical mask, will vastly boost protections to the wearer and others.

The CDC report released with the new guidance cited research that found that, in “simulated breathing” experiments, a surgical mask alone blocked 42% of particles that could transmit SARS-CoV-2.  A simple cloth mask, the researchers found, blocked 44%.  Meanwhile, double masking increased the percentage of aerosols and droplets blocked to 83%, and “knotting and tucking” a surgical mask was found to reduce a person’s exposure to viral particles by 65%. Knotting and tucking is when the wearer makes knots in the ear loops and then tucks the excess fabric in for a tighter fitting mask

In addition, the research found thattransmission of the virus would be reduced by up to 96.5% if both an individual infected with the virus and an uninfected individual are wearing tightly fitted surgical masks or a cloth-and-surgical-mask combination.

While any mask is better than none, the choice of mask has the potential to impact the wearer’s likelihood of becoming infected as well as that of infecting others.  Studies have shown that wearing a mask reduces spread, and that, in communities that adhere to strict mask wearing, the number of new coronavirus cases goes down.

For maximum protection, wear a surgical mask underneath a quality cloth mask.  The cloth mask will hold the surgical mask down and reduce any gaps to make for a tighter fit, which in turn adds greater protection to the wearer and people he comes into contact with.

Another option is a cloth mask with a disposable filter in its center.  The material from vacuum cleaner bags is surprisingly effective in catching droplets and aerosols, researchers have found.

If wearing a surgical mask, anything that pulls the mask tighter against the wearer’s face, be it crossing the ear loops or using a hair clip or ear guard will also improve the benefits derived from that mask.

Finally, remember that disposable surgical masks are just that, disposable.  Throw them in the dustbin if they get wet or dirty or after the mask has been worn for a day.  And don’t ever touch the front surface of the mask: that’s where all the particles you are trying to filter out are sitting.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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