While US disease chief Anthony Fauci called wearing two masks “common sense”, the Norwegian health authorities warned of associated discomfort and health risks.
Having reviewed recent US studies that recommend double masking against the coronavirus, the Norwegian health authorities have updated their guidelines to include the recent reports.
According to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI), however, double masking is not necessary. Wearing one mask is enough, provided that it is adjusted in the recommended way.
“Some studies have been published that show that it is also possible to improve facial adaptation by using a cloth mask on top of a medical mask. If you use the face mask in the recommended way, however, it is not necessary to use two face masks”, the update said.
Furthermore the Institute of Public Health cautioned those who still want to wear two masks.
“If you choose to use two masks, it is important that you handle both of them in the recommended way, and that you are aware that it will be harder to breathe”, the guideline said.
Senior Public Health Institute adviser Mette Fagernes underscored the importance of making the mask fit properly.
“Many people have a lot to gain when it comes to making the masks sit tightly. Some of those currently on the market fit poorly. Therefore, we have previously recommended that you can consider tying a knot on the elastics to shorten them,” Fagernes told national broadcaster NRK, citing studies that emphasise the benefits of doing so.
At the same time she emphasised that double masking can lead to people touching the face more often to adjust the masks, which may imply an extra risk, and stressed other challenges of using two masks.
“It can, among other things, affect breathing. Some people find it uncomfortable to wear a single face mask, and if you go with two on top of each other, it could make it even more uncomfortable,” Fagernes mused. “We know that when it feels uncomfortable, you will feel the urge to fiddle with it a bit and tug at it to get more air in,” Fagernes explained.
In a recent study by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that wearing a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask, known as double masking, yields substantial benefits by reducing the risk of infectious aerosols by 90 percent. In comparison, a medical mask without a knot shut out 42 percent of the aerosols, whereas a cloth mask blocked 44.3 percent.
So far, US disease chief Anthony Fauci has been one of the most vocal proponents of double masking. In a recent interview with Today, Fauci said it was “common sense” to wear two masks. Meanwhile photographs of Fauci wearing two masks have drawn polarising reactions online ranging from admiration to scepticism and derision.
Norway has so far seen about 67,000 cases of COVID-19, with nearly 600 deaths, being one of the mildly-hit nations of its region. Still, the country has introduced a number of regional and national restrictions and partial lockdowns and cancelled international sporting evens and NATO drills for fear of spreading mutated COVID-19 strains.