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The CDC has released new studies that show double masking significantly reduces your chance of contracting or spreading COVID-19.

Now that we’re coming up on a year since the pandemic transformed our day-to-day lives, most of us are used to carrying face masks around wherever we go. However, just because we’ve been wearing them for a while does not mean that we enjoy wearing them. 

Hearing complaints about masks being uncomfortable or restricting is incredibly common —as well as seeing people refusing to wear them in public, despite mandatory state laws. Though people are continuing to protest, there’s no denying that wearing masks to slow the spread of COVID-19 has been extremely beneficial across the globe

A new development has arisen as recent tests conducted by the CDC reveal there are further precautions you can take to adequately protect yourself and others from COVID-19. What are they, you ask?

Well, you can start by double masking. 

After conducting an experimental simulation, in which dummies made of pliable elastomeric material were masked with a medical procedure mask and a cloth mask placed over it, the CDC found that, “exposure to potentially infectious aerosols decreased by about 95%,” when two subjects were double masking while in close proximity. 

In another CDC study, which used a simulated cough to measure the effectiveness of masks, wearing only a medical procedure mask blocked only 56.1% of particles, wearing only a cloth mask blocked 51.4% of particles while wearing a combination of the two masks blocked 85.4% of particles. Need I say more?

Let me make one thing clear, though. These results are strictly derived from a study in which a surgical mask is placed under a cloth mask. Therefore, you should be doing the same. There’s no evidence to suggest doubling up on cloth masks or surgical masks is doing any good, so follow the experiment. 

I know what some of you may be thinking. Sure, wearing two masks may be more effective, but won’t I basically be suffocating? The answer is no. 

According to research published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society in Oct.  2020, wearing a face mask has a “negligible negative effect” on oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, as reported by Evelyn Lewin of the RACGP.

You may feel a bit claustrophobic, but there is no evidence supporting the idea that wearing one mask, or two, will harm your breathing. However, I get it you want to be comfortable. Lucky for you, there are a few other ways you can take maximum precautions without having to wear two masks — though, I still heavily suggest you try to. We’re talking about protecting the population here. 

One of the primary reasons double masking has proven to be successful is because you ensure the masks are sufficiently fitted to your face. Many cloth and surgical masks tend to be loose around the sides and contours of the face, and you could be doing more harm than good when wearing your mask. By wearing two, the probability of particles leaking in is significantly decreased. 

How else can you prevent air, and potentially harmful particles, from leaking into your mask? By making sure your mask fits as well as it possibly can. 

That’s right, it’s that simple. By adjusting your mask to properly fit your face shape, your mask is  doing just as much good as you are when double masking, according to the CDC.

To have a mask fit properly you must look at the kind of mask. For cloth masks, you’ll want to stick to ones with a nose wire that can help shape the mask to your face. You’ll also need a mask made of tightly woven, dependable fabric. 

According to a piece by the Chicago Tribune,  you can test your mask’s strength by holding it up to a bright light. If you can see through the mask, it isn’t strong enough to protect you during the pandemic. Once you know if your mask is made of the proper material, purchase a mask fitter. This device does a great job of preventing air from leaking into your mask while allowing you to breathe freely. 

For surgical masks, the CDC recommends the knot and tuck method. What you’ll want to do is make a knot near your mask’s ear loops and tuck the sides of it in to make the mask as secure as possible. If you need a bit of a tutorial, check out this video by UNC Health that guides you through the process. 

So, if your reason behind not being as safe as possible is that you don’t want to double mask, guess what? That is no longer a sound excuse. Though double masking is proven to be the best approach to take to protect you and your loved ones, you can still prevent up to 95% of potentially infectious particles by just making sure your mask is fitted firmly on your face.

Taking extra steps to be safe takes little to no time or effort. So please, for those of us desperate to get back to what the world was like pre-pandemic, be considerate.