City Issues New Mask Guidelines: Wearing Two Can Raise Protection Level to 95%, Study Finds

By Carol Tannenhauser

The NYC Health Department is recommending that New Yorkers wear two masks—a paper one covered by a cloth one—to better stem the spread of the coronavirus, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi announced jointly at the mayor’s weekly press conference on Thursday.

This follows the recent release of a CDC study, which found “that two masks are better than one in slowing coronavirus spread,” AP reported. “The researchers found that wearing one mask—surgical or cloth—blocked around 40% of the particles coming toward the head that was breathing in. When a cloth mask was worn on top of a surgical mask, about 80% were blocked. When both the exhaling and inhaling heads were double-masked, more than 95% of the particles were blocked…”

The new guidance comes at a time when there is growing concern about more contagious variants of the virus showing up in the city. It has become a requirement in some NYC courts. “Visitors to Manhattan federal court and other buildings in the Southern District of New York are now required to either wear two face masks or an FDA-approved N95 mask,” wrote the New York Post.

“Of all the things that we’ve learned in this crisis, maybe the most profound is the power of a mask,” Mayor de Blasio said. “What we’re saying today is time to double up. Two masks are better than one. Make it a double.”

“Masks help us face the world and each other but it’s important that we cover up correctly,” said Dr. Chokshi. “The strategies we’re sharing today will help shield all of us from COVID-19.”

The Health Department issued the following guidance on the proper selection and use of face coverings:

Use a face covering with two or three layers of material to better prevent unfiltered air from passing through. A cloth face covering over a disposable mask, is also recommended. However, people should not use two disposable masks. Wearing two of these masks does not help improve fit.

Use face coverings made of tightly woven fabric (fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source). Face coverings should be made of breathable fabric (like cotton), and not of leather, plastic, or other materials that make it hard to breathe.

Do not use a face covering with an exhalation valve as it allows unfiltered exhaled air to escape.

Make sure the face covering fits snugly against the sides of the face and fully cover both the nose and mouth, without slipping. Face coverings that fit loosely allow respiratory droplets to enter and leak out.

For New Yorkers at greater risk, the guidance recommends two masks or even considering higher-grade masks, such as a KN95 mask, which is similar in design and function to N95 masks used by healthcare workers.

NEWS | 25 comments | permalink
    1. denton says:

      What a joke, still messing with crappy homemade/Etsy masks a year after the pandemic began. Let’s just get everyone certified N95s or KN95s and be done with it. The myth about saving N95s for healthcare workers should have been put to bed a long time ago. As a recent NYT article pointed out, a single mask manufacturer has 30 million of them that the health care industry won’t even buy from him. Non-medical masks have killed a lot of people but no one wants to talk about it.

      • m.pipik says:

        Not everyone (or most people) can afford to buy the N_95 masks. They need to be replaced fairly often. You also have to buy a batch which can cost over $100 with shipping.

        Multi-layered cloth masks are still the best option for most NYers.

        • denton says:

          You did read where I said ‘let’s get everyone…’. I didn’t say everyone should be expected to buy them. The pandemic will cost trillions of dollars and untold suffering. If we can do free virus testing and free vaccine, we can sure do free medical grade masks.

        • Harriet says:

          Not true about N95 & KN95 masks being unaffordable. My husband’s doc said, buy 6-10 N95 or KN95 masks, use one a day every 6-10 days, and let the others just sit in the open. All the possible germs will be gone by then. In the long run, a much more economical deal than buying those paper disposable masks. Works for all day-to-day non-medical settings, not if you work in a hospital of course.

      • JohnBT says:

        KN95 masks submitted to the CDC for testing by Chinese manufacturers are listed on this site. So are counterfeits. to see the test results you need to scroll over to the far right two columns.

        Highly testing KN95 masks are affordable. The NY Times article mentions one brand: Powecom, whose authorized US distributor is

        Also highly testing are Arun KN95 masks, sold here:

        KN95 masks submitted to the CDC for testing by Chinese manufacturers are listed on this site. So are counterfeits. To see the test results you need to scroll over to the far right two columns.

        Highly testing masks are affordable. The NY Times article mentions one brand: Powecom, whose authorized US distributor is:

        Also highly testing are Arun KN95 masks, sold here:

        Both sites sell the masks for under $2 each, more than you would pay on Etsy for less effective cotton masks.

        I’d steer clear of Amazon and get something from an authorized distributor like these, should your reading of the CDC site lead you to choose another brand.

        I’ve been wearing masks from both manufacturers I mentioned throughout the epidemic and like them. I also use highly rated masks made by a third manufacturer but got those early on and can’t remember the purchasing details.

        You may need to try a few masks from different companies or get a sample because they’re not all the same size and one might fit you better than another. The width of the ear loops vary too. Thinner ones are easier to wear with glasses, especially if you double up. (I’ve been wearing two KN95 masks in “risky” locations when news of the variants first broke, before the CDC advised it. It may not be necessary with a KN95 but, it can’t hurt.)

        Hope this info helps.

    2. Paul says:

      Anyone doubting that it’s all in the attitude only needs to look at the positivity rates in the zip codes on the UWS and compare them to demographically analogous areas in places like South Brooklyn and Staten Island where conservative resistance to Covid measures prevail.

      We have positivity rates 3 to 4 times lower than those.

    3. Ellen says:

      It’s way more comfortable to wear a layered cotton mask against the skin, with a cheap surgical mask over it.

      • UWS-er says:

        Yes, but that’s not as effective. The surgical mask provides more protection and should be closest to the skin. The cloth mask goes over it to ensure a better fit.

      • MaryC says:

        That variation was not found to be as effective. Personally I find having the tighter fitting surgical mask under the cloth is more comfortable and reduces fogging on my glasses. That means its also a better fit and fewer particles are escaping

    4. Judy Harris says:

      And for a closer shave, a third blade.

    5. AntiTrumpCuomoetal says:

      So batik bandannas are out now? Will we be fined for wearing them? Mine got me through this whole damn thing so far. News flash—we have immune systems. Fear is an immunosuppressant. Numbers are going down. Every virus mutates. Breathing fresh air when you go outside is actually good for your health—What is this world coming to?

      • I’m not exactly sure what the point of your semi-harangue was, but I really enjoyed reading it, all in all; your spirit is feisty and fresh as the spring air that I’m so looking forward to breathing one fine day soon, so thanks!

        • JL says:

          Live free or die. We’re number one. Let’s look at the data-

          It is not by coincidence that Western Europe (UK) and the US are having the most difficult time with C19. We value our personal freedoms. Americans were warned it would be bad if people traveled for TG, Xmas and NY holidays. Restaurants are getting crushed in NYC, while Westchester and Nassau county allowed dining in just down the same streets. The 50 states are behaving like 50 different countries, except the virus doesn’t care about state lines. Tiny Belgium is a microcosm of the US with its different regions and responses.

          I’m glad the UWS infection rates are low “by comparison”. Wearing better face coverings seems like a no-brainer, especially during a NYC winter.

      • MTS says:


      • Marianne says:

        AntiTrumpCuomoetal: thank you! Finally someone is talking sense!

    6. Covid Jones says:

      The CDC “paper” (it didn’t have a methods section, so it doesn’t qualify as a scientific publication, btw) also “showed” that you get equivalent results by tying a little knot in the strap of a plain-old surgical mask. It was about fit, not layers.

      Interesting that the media doesn’t pick up on that fact, ain’t it?

      Don’t believe second-hand summaries. Read it for yourself, and see if you find it convincing:

      Questions to ask yourself:

      How did they measure particles? Does the paper say?
      Are mannequin heads realistic models for humans?
      How might they differ from actual human faces?
      Do two mannequin heads in a box resemble a typical human encounter?
      Are aerosols of saltwater an accurate model of virus transmission?

    7. Brooklyn exile says:

      Denton’s right about a number of things. We’re spending trillions trying to defeat this thing, and losing trillions as well, and no one thinks of sending a box of N95s to every American household. How many lives is that worth?! And by the way you can buy a box of 20 N95s for 45 bucks from the company Denton references. United States Mask, in Fort Worth. The storm has temporarily shut them down, but they’ll be up in a day or two I imagine.

    8. Florence says:

      Amazon is selling KN95 masks, $10 for a pack of 10. Jane Brody recommended them. But are they any good?

    9. sg says:

      What fools…why not three, four, five. It will never end as long as you lemmings follow

    10. Morgan says:

      N95s are brutal — so uncomfortable and difficult to wear, honestly, that I doubt they could be tolerated by most people, even in an emergency. I was so grateful to be given a few, but each time I put one on, I almost passed out from hyperventilation, and the elastic straps cut in tightly and painfully to the skin, leaving bruises and red marks. I touched my face constantly trying to readjust for comfort and to relieve the pain – the exact thing you are not supposed to do while wearing a mask– and finally I gave up. My senior parents, desperate and determined, could not handle wearing theirs for even 1 full minute, and I genuinely doubt most of you could either.
      (Knowing that front line workers often wear them all day makes me in awe of their dedication even more!)

      Masks for all who need them? Yes! N95s? Nope, sorry 🙁

    11. JL says:

      — “Why not wear a N95 or KN95? These high quality respirators provide excellent protection on both exhalation and inhalation, but only if they are fitted properly, and they are not easy to fit properly. All air must pass through the respirator material and the vast majority of people wearing them do not wear them correctly.’

      The above is from the link referenced in the touching write up about meeting Billy Healey by Julie Lam

      When this piece was first written, Americans killed by C19 had reached the number of Americans killed in WW1. Currently the numbers have gone on to surpass WW1, WW2, and the Vietnam War COMBINED..

      Thank you WSR for the Billy Healey story.

    12. Sheila Wolk says:

      I dont mind wearing 2 masks but I have a QUESION: I bought some great material double layered that have insert pocket for placing a disposable filter in them….SO DO I DOUBLE UP WITH THAT TOO??? Seems I amgetting 3 in one with the material masks with filter pocket and replacements