Everyone knows wearing a mask helps reduce the risk of infection from the COVID-19 coronavirus, but donning a more tightly-fitted surgical mask — or placing a cloth mask over the surgical mask to form a second layer — can substantially increase the rate of protection to both wearers and bystanders, according to a new study published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Wearing double-mask reduces COVID-19 spread up to 96.5 percent
The CDC released a new study that shows transmission of the virus behind the global pandemic is reduced up to 96.5 percent if both infected and uninfected parties wear surgical masks — tightly fitted to the face — with a cloth layered on top.
Director of the CDC Rochelle P. Walensky announced the agency's new findings during a Wednesday White House briefing on the coronavirus — where they urged people in the U.S. to wear "a well-fitting mask" with at least two layers, according to a New York Times report.
Walensky also emphasized the necessity of masks in light of the general public worry over new COVID-19 coronavirus variants mounting.
"With cases, hospitalizations and deaths still very high, now is not the time to roll back mask requirements," said Walensky. "The bottom line is this: Masks work, and they work when they have a good fit and are worn correctly."
Double-mask less effective if worn loosely
Deaths from viruses increased significantly in the U.S. last November — but while they remain unconscionably high, they appear to have entered a steady decline. In January, new cases of COVID-19 and subsequent hospitalizations began to fall. But researchers emphasize the need to prepare for a more contagious virus variant to rapidly sweep the country — for example, cases of the one from the U.K. are doubling roughly every 10 days in the U.S., and could become the most dominant variant by March, according to the CDC.
Up to Feb. 1, 14 states and the District of Columbia had mandated compulsory mask-wearing rules — which makes mask-wearing a legal requirement for access to federal property, in addition to domestic and international transportation hubs.
While the effectiveness of masks has remained high, even this new 96.5% rating will drop sharply for wearers and bystanders of wearers who wear masks loosely — creating open edges where aerosols and respiratory droplets can freely enter and exit. This past year has become increasingly stressful for everyone, but as viable vaccines to the first variant circulate and secondary vaccines are in the works, it remains up to everyone to minimize the rapid spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the final stretches of the global pandemic.
This was a breaking story and was regularly updated as new information became available.