New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is urging Big Apple residents to wear two masks instead of one to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as new variants of the coronavirus circulating in the United States are reportedly more contagious than the original.
De Blasio’s Health Department has adopted the policy of recommending double-masking just days after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance.
‘We know that even as the vaccine is here, the need to keep wearing a mask is paramount, it’s crucial,’ the mayor said.
‘It’s amazing of how all the things that we’ve learned in this crisis, maybe the most profound is the power of a mask.’
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top health officials are recommending that residents of the Big Apple don two masks instead of one to mitigate the spread of COVID-19
Wearing a thicker fabric mask over a surgical one may act like a double-filter and improve the fit of face coverings. The image above shows a visitor in Times Square wearing a cloth in addition to a medical-grade face mask on December 10
‘Even one of these paper masks makes a huge difference, but what we’re saying today is, time to double up,’ the mayor said.
‘Two masks are better than one. Make it a double.’
The mayor’s comments came a day after it was learned that federal buildings in New York said they would start requiring people to wear two masks to enter.
Chief Judge Colleen McMahon outlined the harsh new Covid measures in a public memo released last week.
Anyone entering federal court in Manhattan, Westchester County and Dutchess county must follow strict protocols including doubling up on masks.
People must also get their temperature checked and answer questions about their health during a screening on entry.
The policy states that people may either wear a tight-fitting disposable mask under a cloth mask or an FDA approved KN95 of N95 respirator mask.
Anyone wearing a gaiter, bandana or other material to cover their nose and mouth that is not an approved mask will be barred entry.
The CDC updated its guidance, saying people can wear a cloth mask on top of a disposable surgical mask ‘for better fit and extra protection.’
But the agency stopped short of recommending that Americans wear two masks instead of one.
If done correctly, the combination of two masks can tighten the gaps around the mask’s edges that can let virus particles in, the CDC said.
The agency also said it will take down a make-your-own mask page, which went up last year when masks were in short supply and the CDC was encouraging people to take steps to interrupt viral transmission.
Some Americans have already started doubling up. Experts believe that’s at least partly out of concern about new strains of coronavirus that have been found to spread more easily than the one that has driven the US epidemic for the past year
CDC guidance has evolved over the course of the epidemic.
Mask-wearing has long been common in some countries during respiratory outbreaks, especially in parts of Asia, but not in the United States.
Last week, US government researchers found that two masks are better than one in slowing coronavirus spread.
The CDC last week reported the results of a lab experiment that spaced two artificial heads 6 feet from each other and checked to see how many coronavirus-sized particles spewed by one were inhaled by the other.
The researchers found that wearing one mask — surgical or cloth — blocked around 40 per cent 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 per cent were blocked.
When both the exhaling and inhaling heads were double-masked, more than 95 per cent of the particles were blocked, said the CDC’s Dr. John Brooks.
When the COVID-19 crisis began and masks disappeared from store shelves, US health officials actively discouraged the general public from wearing them.
‘Seriously people – STOP BUYING MASKS!’ then-Surgeon General Jerome Adams wrote in a tweet almost a year ago.
Two months later, after it became clear that infected people who did not exhibit symptoms could spread the virus, the CDC began recommending people wear masks in public.
Mask-wearing increased and some places enforced mask mandates, but many Americans continue not to wear them.
A recent University of California survey suggested that only about half of US adults wear masks when in close contact with people outside their household.
Discussions about double-masking and higher-quality masks are important, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases scientist at the University of Toronto.
‘But if a significant proportion of your populations isn’t wearing a mask in the first place, then you’re having the wrong conversation,’ he added.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said his department’s new recommendation is based on the CDC guidance.
‘The single most important thing remains – wearing a face covering consistently and properly so that it covers both your nose and mouth and you wear it both indoors and outdoors,’ Chokshi said.
But he added: ‘Using two masks is more effective at stopping the spread of the virus.’
People should avoid wearing two disposable masks one on top of the other, according to Chokshi.
Instead, they should wear a cloth mask over a disposable mask.
‘Two of the disposable masks will not improve fit,’ he said.
Chokshi urged those 65 years and older as well as people with underlying health conditions to ‘consider’ upgrading to a medical-standard mask like KN95.
The mayor on Thursday said that 262 residents of the city were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday.
City health officials reported 3,216 new cases. The rolling seven-day average of the positivity rate stood at 7.17 per cent.