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ADPH expert discusses double masking

With COVID-19 still running ramped in the United States, and a new variant starting to spread, including to Alabama, some experts across the country have advised of double masking.

At this time, the Centers for Disease Control has not advised that wearing two masks is necessary, and Alabama Department of Public Health District Medical Officer Dr. Karen Landers agrees.

“Overall, if you look at the issue of double masking versus a mask with multiple layers worn correctly and consistently, what double masking is really about is additional layers,” Landers said. “The CDC has not actually changed its position on this but is just reminding that two to three layers of tightly woven, washable, breathable fabric are worn properly and correctly.”

Landers, who has been wearing a mask almost every day since the pandemic started in Alabama, has tried wearing two masks, but the problem was she had to constantly be fixing it to make sure she was wearing the masks correctly.

“I’ve discerned that trying to help people understand that using layers of appropriate fabric worn appropriately and correctly,  that is all that it is about,” Landers said. “Putting two masks together, rather than just having an appropriately layered mask as a single unit was really problematic for a lot of people. It is very important that once a person puts a mask on, they can wear it comfortably without pulling on it.”

Landers said homemade masks and cloth masks are still fine to use, as long as they are multilayered and washed in a washing machine with hot water and dried in a dryer. She said the best type of material is cotton.

To test how useful the mask is, Landers suggests doing the match test, which is where you try to blow out a match while wearing a mask. If the match goes out or flickers, you should upgrade your mask.

“Obviously, thin layers don’t help, but two to three layers of tightly-woven fabric [help stop the spread of COVID-19,]” Landers said. “If people want to do that, it is fine, but if they are wearing the double or triple-layered cloth masks and they are wearing them consistently and correctly, that is certainly what we are trying to promote.”

While wearing a mask isn’t an automatic deterrent from getting COVID-19, Landers and many other health experts believe the pandemic would get more controlled if more people were wearing masks.

“I think if we had consistent adherence to masks from the ages 2 and above when they go out  and about, I believe we would see the numbers really decrease and stabilize at a point,”  Launders said. “Nothing is 100 percent in terms of prevention, but I think we absolutely could see it stabilize and go down if we had the vast majority of the population being consistent with mask use.”

Alabama currently has 452,734 cases of COVID-19, 3,159 of which have been in Chambers County. Between Monday and Wednesday, Chambers County has reported 107 new cases of COVID-19.

“We’re at a time where we continue to have a lot of community transmission,” Landers said. “Our statewide percent positive was 13.1 percent this past week. Some counties are having lower percent positive, while others are having higher percentages. I think the overall message is we still have a lot of COVID-19 in Alabama and more importantly, the UK strain has just been identified in Alabama. Knowing that we now have this strain that because of the properties of the mutant strain, makes it more contagious. This mutant strain tends to be able to adhere to the cells of the respiratory tract.

“I think given the community transmission and the fact that we have identified the UK strain in Alabama, the most important thing to remember is that we have the mitigation standards, mask use being one of those standards. We absolutely need to continue to do this until we are able to have widespread use of vaccines.”