Ought to You Double Masks within the Office?

On February 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new masking guidelines to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. Universal masking has been widely recommended by health authorities around the world, including the World Health Organization (WHO). So if one mask is good, are two better?

The CDC conducted experiments to find ways to improve the fit of Non-respirators such as cloth masks, surgical masks and other non-N-95 grades to maximize their effectiveness. The Result: If you want to reduce exposure, put a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask (surgical mask), which CDC laboratory tests have found can help reduce exposure to potentially infectious aerosols by up to 95 percent.

Wearing a single mask is not effective with air flowing around it rather than through it, says Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an infectious disease doctor at Northwell Health. However, if you only have a surgical mask, you can make it more effective by tying the ear loops and then tucking in the extra material close to your face and flattening it for a tighter fit.

Both methods significantly reduce your exposure to the aerosol droplets that cause Covid-19. However, three is no better than two. Dr. Hirsch also notes that you shouldn’t go overboard and wear more than two masks at a time. If the air resistance from the mask becomes too great, you are more likely to lose the tight fit around the mask, which is crucial.

Of course, you don’t want the mask to be uncomfortable either. “The most important mask is the one you will always wear in high-risk situations,” says Dr. Bob Bollinger, professor of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University Medical School and inventor of Emocha Health, a medical device company that helps patients keep medications. “There’s no point in wearing masks if you don’t use them consistently.”

Remember that masks are only part of a much larger picture. Masks are great, but not enough. Neither a vaccine nor social distancing are taken separately. “All of the protective layers we have are imperfect,” says Dr. Deer. “It’s all hands on deck and anything we can do to study different interventions and try to make each intervention more effective can result in a cumulative force to eradicate this epidemic.”

An insecure job can affect a company’s ability to perform at its best. However, as of February 1, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have universal mask mandates. Without a government mandate, it is even more important for business organizations to have their own mandatory mask guidelines. But even with a government mandate, employers should take on the task of educating workers about the proper use and effectiveness of wearing masks and keeping them informed of the proper use and effectiveness of all PPE equipment.

In a broader sense, Dr. Christine Crawford, an epidemiologist who previously worked for the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, said these latest guidelines, as well as a new focus on guidelines for schools, could mean a shift in the way the CDC operates under the Administration of Biden. “This is the beginning where they are empowered and resourced,” she says. “There’s a reason the CDC has been the gold standard for disease control for years. Now they can do what they do.”

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