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.