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Are two masks better than one? Local specialist says "not necessarily"

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Posted at 7:30 PM, Feb 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 00:17:20-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9) — Are two masks better than one? Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week, it makes common sense that two masks are better than one.

But Dr. Sean Elliott, a local specialist in pediatric infectious diseases and a member of TMC One says, “Not necessarily. And I have to qualify that the key is to wear at least one mask properly. And here's the challenge, some people may think that more is better similar to like there's more gasoline in the tank of the car, but if the spark plugs don’t work the car doesn't drive.”

The first concern should be wearing the masks properly to create a successful barrier; but also that not all masks are created equally.

“Now a single layer of fabric, with a cloth mask may not be all that effective versus what's being sold commercially, which is several layers of cloth maybe with a cotton filter in the middle. That's going to work very nicely. In the hospital, the medical setting we were these, this is the typical surgical mask, which is designed for the purpose of preventing droplet transmission,” said Elliott.

Elliott said a good mask with several layers, like a surgical mask, is proven to be 80 to 95 percent effective. And with a mask with a single layer the effectiveness does decrease.

“Right so again that they're there to two mechanisms of the mask that the first is to prevent transmission from the wearer from me if I'm wearing the mask to you the recipient. The other purpose, though, is to prevent me from getting droplets through the mask into myself and depending on the mask there anywhere from 55-percent to maybe even 65-percent effective so there's still pretty good not perfect, but pretty good,” said Elliott.

Elliott says he thinks the double mask concept came from a practice that is unique to the medical field. Wearing a cloth mask over an N-95 mask to preserve the N-95’s function for a longer period of time.