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Navy cloth mask over disposable face masks

Double Masking

The year commenced to a surge of COVID-19 cases. Now the world is preparing for a potential fourth wave of Coronavirus as the death toll rises in communities everywhere, and new variants of the virus emerge. In addition to the cautionary measures outlined by the World Health Organization, President Joe Biden signed executive orders mandating the use of face masks on federal property and urges everyone who can to get the vaccination. Despite the mass allocation of vaccinations, the distribution fails to meet the increasing rate of infection. Furthermore, new variants of the virus have placed tremendous pressure on drug companies to keep up with the variation and find new solutions. Due to these factors, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention has buckled down on detailing specific ways in which everyone can combat the virus.  

Despite the mass allocation of vaccinations, the distribution fails to meet the increasing rate of infection. 

The CDC website emphasizes several tips to improve the use of face masks during this time. Firstly, it is important to wear a mask that fits snugly on your face. Without a well fitted mask, air droplets can leak in from the gaps on the edges of the mask. Secondly, they recommend picking a mask with layers to eliminate the possibility of respiratory droplets coming in or out. Layers decrease the spread of germs by blocking the distance they travel from your mouth to the air, and then to another person. In a logical sense, the more layers the more protection. The CDC also advises the following precautions: 

Social distance, ventilate rooms, avoid crowds, wash your hands often, and cough into a tissue or your elbow if you don’t have one handy. Moreover, because the risk of contracting COVID-19 has climbed since last year, the CDC recommends that everyone wear two masks “double-mask” when they are in public spaces or around people. According to lab tests, wearing a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask showed significant protection against germs and transmission of the virus. Though double masking is helpful in combating the virus, it can also pose a risk. This is because all masks should not be layered. The CDC recommends to double mask with the exception of when wearing N95/KN95 face masks. One N95/KN95 face mask will work just as effectively as a disposable face mask and cloth mask combined.  

Additional recommendations from the CDC include:  

  • Find a mask that offers a nose wire. This metal strip at the top of the face mask prevents air from leaking out above your mask. 
  • Consider utilizing a mask fitter or a brace over a disposable face mask to prevent air from entering in through the open spaces on the edges of the mask.  
  • Ensure that the mask fits snugly over your chin, mouth and nose. You can check if there are any air leaks by cupping your hands around the outside edges of the mask. If you can see the material on the mask move in and out as you breathe, or feel warm air exit the front of the mask, these are good tell-tale signs that your face mask is secure.   
  • Double up on protection by using a cloth mask with a thick layer of fabric, using an N95/KN95, or by doubling up on masks. If you choose the latter, put on a disposable mask first. Then put on the cloth mask or whatever second option you want (not N95/KN95). 
  • Although it’s important to protect yourself and others with face masks, you still need to see and breathe through them. Be sure that the face mask layers don’t prevent you from obtaining oxygen. It’s important to note that the air may be tighter, but you should not be struggling to breathe.  

To secure your disposable 3-ply face mask, try the Knot and Tuck method demonstrated in this video 


  • Combining two disposable masks. These do not provide a tight fit on the face. Wearing more than one will not improve the security or protection you need. 
  • Combining a N95/KN95 face mask with any other mask. Most of these were designed for a snug fit with multiple layers of melt blown non-woven fabric. Doubling up on them could restrict air flow altogether. One N95/KN95 at a time is perfect.