Advertisement

Double masking or 3-layer mask with filters? Experts weigh in as COVID-19 variants spread

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 variants raise new questions over masking' COVID-19 variants raise new questions over masking
WATCH: Masking is one tool in the fight against the novel coronavirus, but as new variants pop up, some suggest wearing just one mask may not be enough. This comes as some countries ban homemade face coverings. Christa Dao reports – Jan 28, 2021

Health experts have said it for months: wearing a mask is simply one tool in the fight against COVID-19. But, as new variants emerge, some suggest wearing just one mask may not be enough.

In the United States, that country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, suggested wearing two masks — or double masking — will be more effective.

“So, if you have a physical covering with one layer, if you put another layer on it, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” Fauci said on Monday.

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 19: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wears a protective mask during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. The White House held its first Coronavirus Task Force briefing in months as cases of COVID-19 are surging across the country ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images). Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

When asked if Canada would recommend a similar messaging, a spokesperson with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said it was aware of the comments made by Fauci, but said: “It is important to recognize that Canada’s context is different from the United States.”

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: What the COVID-19 variants could mean for masks, lockdowns and vaccines

One infectious disease expert suggests doubling up single layer masks could be more effective — when used properly.

Dr. Lynora Saxinger with the University of Alberta cautioned against blindly adding layer upon layer upon layer, saying people should pay attention to how well the mask fits and if there is proper breathability.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“We do know that increasing the number of layers of a mask can improve the performance of a mask, at least in lab-type conditions.”

“For a lot of people, if they’re used to wearing a very simple and single or double-layer mask, adding extra layers might actually improve the safety… If you’re going to double-mask, make sure that the fit is good, and that you’re able to breathe through the mask quite reasonably well. Those would be the concerns I would have with people layering on too much that you might actually lose off on the ability to breathe through them.”

Click to play video: 'Experts answer your COVID-19 questions, part 16' Experts answer your COVID-19 questions, part 16
Experts answer your COVID-19 questions, part 16 – Jan 25, 2021

In November, PHAC recommended the addition of a third filter layer to “improve the level of protection provided,” recommending Canadians choose a mask that includes a filter or filter material as one of its layers, including a non-woven polypropylene fabric or a disposable filter inserted into the pocket of the mask.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: 3-layer masks with filter now recommended, Canada’s top doctor says

Single-layer masks are deemed not as effective compared to the triple-layer masks and can vary greatly in quality and filtration, according to Saxinger.

She also adds that when three-layer masks with a filter are used, they can be just as effective as non-surgical masks or N95 masks.

Click to play video: 'Fabric stores seeing spike in demand for synthetic materials' Fabric stores seeing spike in demand for synthetic materials
Fabric stores seeing spike in demand for synthetic materials – Nov 6, 2020

Demand for non-surgical masks has skyrocketed, according to Montreal-based Medicom, a manufacturer and distributer of infection control products.

Its chief operating officer, Guillaume Laverdure, said the company saw a 10x increase in demand since the start of the pandemic — something he attributed to increased knowledge and awareness.

Laverdure said demand has softened slightly but they are still seeing demand levels about three times the average pre-pandemic.

Story continues below advertisement

“One of the things that the pandemic has revealed is that not every mask is a good mask… Governments or people (are) trying to get away from fabric masks because they realize it’s not good protection against a virus,” Laverdure said.

He said the continued demand for non-surgical masks is linked to increased COVID-19 contamination, increased awareness and regulation that some countries are taking.

Read more: Inside the hunt for coronavirus variants in Canada

France recently banned low-quality homemade cloth masks, with the hope of slowing the spread of a variant there. Canada has no plans to follow France’s lead but maintains homemade masks can work in slowing the spread of the virus, when used properly.

The renewed message comes with calls that masking up is only one weapon in the fight against COVID-19.

Officials are reminding Canadians that in addition to masking up, they are encouraged to keep their distance of six feet apart, wash their hand regularly and stay home if sick.

PHAC said it will continue to monitor the situation and will adjust its guidance if further such evidence emerges.

Alberta Health also said there is no change to its masking recommendation at this time.

Advertisement

Sponsored content