Double masking gets mixed reviews from Wisconsin health officials

After Dr. Anthony Fauci said double masking could offer more protection, some local experts disagree.
Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 9:32 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - After advice from the nation’s top doctor Anthony Fauci saying double masking makes sense, questions still remain.

“I say, you know if it makes you feel better to do two masks, the chances are you’re going to get an enhanced protection so why not go ahead and do it,” Fauci said.

NBC15 asked state and local health experts if they agree with Dr. Fauci, and they gave mixed reviews. Right now, there is not a consistent recommendation.

UW Health Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeff Pothof said he has been getting several questions about double masking.

“People are calling like, ‘Should I be wearing two masks?’” he described.

Pothof said the short answer to that question is no.

“I don’t think you’re going to gain a whole lot by double masking if you’re already using a high quality mask,” he explained.

Should you be double masking? UW Health's Dr. Jeff Pothof says - as long as you have a high quality surgical or cloth...

Posted by Sanika Bhargaw NBC15 on Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Pothof recommends wearing a cloth mask at least two layers thick or a surgical mask. If someone’s mask is poor quality, that could be a rare situation in which a second mask might help.

“If you’re using something that’s one layer of cloth thick or it’s relatively loose fabric, maybe you want to double up,” Pothof said.

Still, even with new strains of COVID-19 that spread faster, Pothof said a second mask does not offer better protection.

“The viruses aren’t necessarily more easy to pass through a mask,” he said.

However, Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk had a different take, citing those same new strains of the virus.

“Not knowing exactly where we are with variants, it certainly doesn’t harm people in any way,” Van Dijk said.

She also said wearing two masks is better than one, speaking from personal experience.

“Wearing two is definitely going to help with that filtration because you’ll add extra layers,” she explained, adding, “Just having done it myself, I can tell you it makes the fit tighter too.”

Pothof said he does not expect mask guidelines to change anytime soon. For now, he urges people to follow what is already in place.

“We just want people to wear a mask when they should be wearing the mask,” he said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet issued any recommendations to wear two or more masks. Their current recommendations advise finding a mask that covers the mouth and nose and fits snugly.

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