CDC Recommends Double Masking in New Guidelines With Surgical, Cloth Combo

February 10, 2021 Updated: February 11, 2021

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released new guidance on Wednesday urging Americans to take steps to improve their masks and their fit to “prevent getting and spreading COVID-19.”

“[N]ot all masks provide the same protection,” the CDC explained in its guidance. “When choosing a mask, look at how well it fits, how well it filters the air, and how many layers it has.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki had earlier in the day referred to a new CDC study that compared the effectiveness of double masking with a cloth and surgical mask, and knotting and tucking surgical masks.

“[T]he study does show that if a person has a loose-fitting mask that they should consider options to improve that fit and this includes nose wire, knotting the ear loops on your mask, wearing a cloth mask over a medical procedure disposable mask—something we do hear quite a bit,” she said.

Director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said that the study found a knotted and tucked surgical mask or a double mask combination of cloth over surgical mask were found to significantly improve the wearer’s protection.

The study, which was conducted in a laboratory under simulated coughing and breathing, found that both adjustments improved protection from aerosolized particles—which may contain the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as COVID-19.

It found that wearing an unknotted medical mask blocked less than 50 percent of particles compared to more than 80 percent protection if both source and receiver followed the guidance.

“In the breathing experiment, having both the source and the receiver wear masks modified to fit better reduce the receiver’s exposure by more than 95 percent compared to no mask at all,” she said at a press briefing Wednesday.

The CDC guidelines do not recommend double masking with two surgical masks or KN95, and says that with any double masking, “make sure you can see and breathe easily.”

Walensky said research has shown that CCP virus infections and deaths have decreased when everyone in a community is required to wear masks. But with hospitalizations and deaths still elevated, it is important to make sure that people are wearing their masks effectively.

“New data released from the CDC today underscores the importance of wearing a mask correctly and making sure it fits closely and snugly over your nose and mouth,” Walensky said.

Rochelle Walensky
In this image from video, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during a White House briefing on the Biden administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in Washington, on Jan. 27, 2021. (White House via AP)

“We continue to recommend that masks should have two or more layers, completely cover your nose and mouth, and fit snugly against your nose and the sides of your face,” she added.

In his first week in office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order mandating the wearing of a face mask on all federal lands and buildings. The president and first lady have also made many public appeals to Americans on the importance of mask-wearing via social media platforms and TV ads during the holidays and this year’s Superbowl.