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Jan. 29, 2021, 10:20 a.m. EST

Does wearing two masks help prevent COVID-19 transmission? Dr. Fauci has an answer

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not issued official guidance on double masking

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By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch


Getty Images
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

‘It just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective.’

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on double masking

Dr. Anthony Fauci says two masks are better than one.

“It just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC’s Today Show this week. “That’s the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not issued official guidance on double masking. It did not advocate wearing face coverings until April 3 last year to help prevent the wearer from spreading coronavirus, but since then health professionals say it also helps prevent the wearer from being infected.

“A mask is like an obstacle course for particles to get through,” Linsey Marr, an expert in virus transmission and a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, told AARP . A second mask “increases the chance that the particle will be trapped before it gets through.”

As of Wednesday, COVID-19 had infected more than 100.4 million people worldwide, which mostly does not account for asymptomatic cases, one of the major ways in which the virus has spread around the world so quickly.

The virus had killed nearly 2.2 million globally, including at least 425,406 in the U.S. The U.S. has the world’s highest number of COVID-19 cases (25.4 million), followed by India (10.7 million), Brazil (8.9 million) and Russia (3.7 million), according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +1.84% , S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +1.95%  and Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +1.47%  were lower Wednesday, as reports showed that lockdown measures to combat the pandemic are taking an economic toll in Europe, and as Biden’s proposed new round of fiscal stimulus ran into opposition in the Senate.

Fauci recently said that he expects more people will be able to get vaccines by April to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. “I would expect by the time we get to April, it will be what we call open season on vaccines,” Fauci told NPR . “Everyone will be able to get a vaccine. So I think by the end of the summer, if we get 70% to 85% of the population vaccinated and get a good herd immunity, I think by the fall we could start to approach some form of normality.”

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U.S. President Joe Biden last week signed a mask mandate for all federal workers and anyone on federal property. They should, the mandate said, “all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines.”

Fauci told NPR, “We want to get it to 1 million vaccinations per day. The idea about having everyone for at least 100 days — at least — wear a mask. Everyone uniformly, so we don’t have disparities where some people are adhering to public-health measures, and others are not.”

Dispatches From a Pandemic: It’s 2:30 a.m. in Wyoming: ‘You’re holding a smartphone to let a husband say goodbye to his wife via FaceTime after 60 years of marriage’

Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +0.48% and German partner BioNTech SE /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +0.86% have said that a final analysis of their vaccine candidate showed 95% efficacy. Meanwhile,Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA -1.05%  said its vaccine candidate was about 94% effective.  

BioNTech and Pfizer said an in vitro study found that their COVID-19 vaccine neutralizes the two new highly infectious variants that have emerged in the U.K. and South Africa. The results were published on the preprint service bioRxiv and have not yet been peer-reviewed.

A vaccine candidate from AstraZeneca /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN +1.65%  and the University of Oxford is safe and effective and showed an average efficacy of 70% in a pooled analysis of interim data, according to a recently published peer-reviewed study.

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Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch's personal-finance editor and The Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.

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