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Should you double mask against COVID-19? St. Louis health experts weigh in

"If you feel like your mask doesn’t fit well or gaping on the sides and you feel another mask will help make it stay in place, then that provides some value"

ST. LOUIS — Are two better than one? This may be the case for mask-wearing.

With new COVID-19 strains circulating, the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force thinks that's the reason double masking became a more prominent idea.

"Because they are transmissible that means the probability to get infected is higher," Dr. Alex Garza said.

Washington University Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Hilary Babcock said a single piece of cloth is not sufficient.

"If you don’t have a mask that’s thick enough, then you might wear two one-layer masks rather than one-layer masks," she explains. 

She adds this two-for-one combo makes sense in certain situations, such as crowded areas with limited circulation.

"If you feel like your mask doesn’t fit well or gaping on the sides and you feel another mask will help make it stay in place, then that provides some value," she says. 

Dr. Garza agreed with the more layers mentality. 

"More is always good, but there is some limit to it," he said. 

A limit such as adding three masks. Adding layers improves filtration, but that works to a certain point. If multiple masks make it too hard to breathe, air could flow out to the corners.

"If it has big gaping holes on the side where you can put your hands through, it’s not clearly doing its best work," Dr. Babcock said. 

Dr. Babcock explained it's quality though, not quantity.

"It’s not really how many masks you wear, but more so the quality of masks you are wearing," she added.

Her suggestion? Make sure it has layers.

"If you are wearing a cloth mask, it should have multiple layers. Most medical grade masks already have several layers and a filtering process into them," Dr. Babcock told 5 On Your Side. 

When it comes to face coverings though, Dr. Garza said he just wants you to wear at least one. 

He says if you have the ability to use a high-performance mask — such as an N-95 or surgical mask — to do so. These specific coverings filter airborne particles at a higher rate.

The idea of double masking comes into play depending on the environment you're in and the crowds you're with.

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