2 masks are better than 1 but fit is most important factor, UNC researchers say

ByAna Rivera WTVD logo
Saturday, February 20, 2021
UNC research shows 2 masks are better than 1
The science is in: two masks are better than one...but fit might be the most important factor.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Researchers at the University of North Carolina say their studies agree, wearing two masks is better than one.

This comes shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced similar findings--although the CDC stopped short of recommending everybody wear two masks.

"The data that we're sharing at this point shows that there is a benefit of double masking," UNC School of Medicine researcher Dr. Phillip Clapp said. Clapp is an aerosol toxicology expert in the Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology.

According to experiments completed at UNC, wearing a cloth mask over the paper surgical masks increases their effectiveness by 40%. When you wear a surgical mask or a cloth mask on its own, they're about 40 percent effective to keep you safe. But the most important factor-whether you double mask or not-is fit.

"Everyone should be wearing a mask that fits over their mouth and nose and that fit really matters. As Dr. Clapp said, we did show that just improving the fit on a single mask increases (effectiveness) 20 percent," said Dr. Emily Sickbert-Bennett, director of infection prevention at the UNC Medical Center.

WATCH: CDC study finds two masks are better than one vs. COVID-19

U.S. government researchers found that two masks are better than one in slowing coronavirus spread, but health officials stopped short of recommending that everyone double up.

Overall, researchers say there is a benefit to double masking. But there is a concern that it could affect the breathability of wearing a mask, which could mean someone feels the need to take their mask off more often. So, your best bet is to find a mask that fits well and that you won't mind wearing.

But for some like Eric Enderson, double masking could be worth it.

"I think that it's super important and if they came out and said, 'hey we need to wear two masks to make sure it's safe for other people.' I'd be going to back to the car to get that second mask as well," Enderson said.