Does Wearing Two Masks Provide More Protection?

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

Throughout the coronavirus health crisis, health officials across the world have been advising people to take important precautions to protect themselves.

We have been asked to wash our hands often and correctly. We have also been urged to stay socially distant from people outside our own household. And one of the most important precautions, of course, is to wear a face mask.

But as the pandemic continues, some people are now asking: Can wearing two masks provide more protection against the virus? The quick answer is: it depends.

Some health experts say it is possible that doubling up the masks could help in some situations.

One of those experts is Dr. David Hamer. He is an infectious disease expert at Boston University. Wearing just one mask should be enough for most situations, Hamer told The Associated Press. But the mask needs to fit well, he adds, and not be loose.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a cloth mask made from two or more layers. The mask, the health agency adds, needs to cover both the nose and mouth. And it should fit snugly on the face.

But even with the best fitting mask, some people might want extra protection in some situations. For example, people who are at risk for severe illness if infected with the coronavirus may want to wear two masks. People also may want to double up if they plan to be around others for long periods of time indoors or must be in an enclosed area, such as on an airplane.

In high-risk situations, another expert suggests wearing a cloth mask as well as a surgical mask. Dr. Monica Gandhi is an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco.

She says wearing both a cloth and surgical mask — with either mask on top — could offer increased protection against the coronavirus. Wearing the two masks that way, Gandhi adds, could have a similar effect as wearing an N95 mask.

N95 masks are a kind of personal protection equipment designed for health care workers and medical first responders. The CDC does not suggest that the general public wear N95 masks.