Do you need to double mask? Here's what the experts are saying

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As new, more contagious variants of COVID-19 continue to spread, some are asking if two masks are better than one.

"If it was safer than one, sure why not?" said Adam Rudofker of Blue Bell, Pa. when asked if he would wear two masks.

The conversation on double masking began after Dr. Anthony Fauci acknowledged that wearing two masks could prove helpful in protecting against COVID-19.

Philadelphia's Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, agrees.

"Any mask is better than no mask; however, there is some reason to think that two masks might be better than one," said Dr. Thomas Farley.

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Should you be using two masks? Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley explains.

Dr. Ronald Collman, a professor and virologist with Penn Medicine, has also examined the concept of double masking and its effectiveness in stopping COVID-19 droplets from spreading.

"We don't really have any studies to prove that, but it kind of makes sense. And sometimes we need to go with what makes sense," he said.

When it comes to masks, two things are important: fit and filter. The purpose of both is to stop droplets.

"They're like microparticles; and a thin mask, they can go through," said Dr. Darren Mareiniss, Einstein Emergency Medicine Physician. "Any time you feel air leak around the mask, those are particles coming out potentially."

Disposable surgical masks have good filters but are not a great fit. Cloth masks have a good fit but oftentimes aren't filtered. That's why Philadelphia's Health Commissioner says you may want to put a cloth mask over the disposable surgical mask.

"A cloth mask has a tighter fit so that it puts a seal around your cheeks and your chin," he said, adding that the surgical mask has a better filter.

Mareiniss says surgical mask alone is up to 70% effective. He says that a cloth mask over the surgical mask raises the effectiveness to up to 90%.

The most effective mask is the N95 mask, but those are hard to find and ideally reserved for health care workers. An alternative is a KN95 mask.

"I think if you wear this (KN95), you don't need to wear two (masks)," said Farley. "You can purchase these, they're much easier to find an N95."

Also, when deciding whether to double mask, consider your activity.

"(If you're) going inside and you're going to be with multiple people in an indoor area that's crowded, poor ventilation, you should double mask," said Mareiniss, adding that scenarios like grocery stores and shopping malls may call for double masking.

Health experts know that not everyone will embrace the concept of double masking, and they say that's OK as long as people wear a mask in general.

"Any mask is better than none," said Farley.

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