Each week, OMRF President Dr. Stephen Prescott opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from OMRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Adam Cohen.
I’ve noticed President Biden and Vice President Harris wearing two masks on recent occasions. Dr. Fauci also recommended this practice the other morning on the “Today” show. What do you think – should we all be doubling up?
Dr. Prescott Prescribes
With the emergence of new, more transmissible strains of SARS-CoV-2, it’s crucial we continue to think of the ways we can best protect ourselves when we’re around others. Atop that list is effective masking.
While comfortable, the simple cloth masks many of us have grown accustomed to wearing offer only limited protection from infection. Upgrading is key, because the higher the quality mask, the fewer viral particles it will let through. And so-called viral load seems to play a crucial role in determining: (1) whether a given exposure leads to infection; and (2) if you get infected, how sick you ultimately become.
PPE shortages early in the pandemic limited the supply and use of medical-grade masks like the N95 to health care workers. Today, those masks and their cousins, KN95 masks, are more widely available.
These masks offer significantly better protection than cloth masks or the standard-issue disposable masks now commonly used. Still, many officials continue to recommend limiting their use to health care workers, as PPE shortages still loom. And there is no doubt they are less comfortable than what many of us are used to wearing.
Double-masking offers a good alternative. Dual levels of filtering will almost certainly prove more effective than one, and the masks will complement one another in sealing any gaps that might otherwise allow viral particles to flow unobstructed to your airways.
A popular and sensible approach seems to be to layer a well-fitting cloth mask over a disposable one.
If you don’t opt for two masks, fit becomes even more important. Pick a mask that has at least two layers, and even better if it can also accommodate a disposable filter.
For those rolling your eyes about “changing” guidance on masks, the beauty of science today is how rapidly and continuously we’re learning new things about this virus. The beauty of being human is that we’re able to adapt as we learn.
Do you have a health query for Dr. Prescott? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!