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

FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 file photo, a state legislator adjusts her face masks while asking a question at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. A government study released on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, finds that wearing two masks can better than one, in protecting against coronavirus infection. But health officials are stopping short of recommending that everyone double-up. The first challenge is to get as many as people as possible masking. And then for those that do mask, to help them get the best benefit out of that mask," said Dr. John Brooks of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 file photo, a state legislator adjusts her face masks while asking a question at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. A government study released on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, finds that wearing two masks can better than one, in protecting against coronavirus infection. But health officials are stopping short of recommending that everyone double-up. The first challenge is to get as many as people as possible masking. And then for those that do mask, to help them get the best benefit out of that mask," said Dr. John Brooks of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) (Copyright 2021. The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

NEW YORK – 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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday 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% 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, said the CDC’s Dr. John Brooks.

Still, for now, health authorities acknowledge they have their hands full just trying to get more people to wear one mask and wear it correctly.

“The first challenge is to get as many as people as possible masking. And then for those that do mask, to help them get the best benefit out of that mask,” Brooks said.

Brooks said agency officials heard about people donning two masks and wanted to evaluate whether it was beneficial.

The study had many limitations: The researchers used one brand of surgical mask and one kind of cloth mask, and it's not clear if results would be the same with every product. But it echoes some earlier research that suggests two masks are better than one.