The effectiveness of wearing masks in preventing the transmission of Covid-19 was a subject of much debate a year ago. But now, not only had masks been scientifically proven to work, according to new research wearing two was even better, at least better than wearing a simple disposable surgical mask, CNN reported.
“Double masking,” which meant placing a tight-fitting cloth mask over a thin surgical mask, was found to effectively block 92.5% of potentially infectious particles from escaping an infected person, according to new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That was more than double the protection offered by a plain surgical mask, which blocked only around 42% of particles.
And it was even better if everyone were to use double masks. If one came across an infected person and both were wearing two masks, one’s exposure to potentially infectious aerosols was reduced by 96.4%.
Double Masks Offered More Than Double Protection: Study
There would be no change in the CDC guidelines officially, but the study highlighted what it already advised. CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky told a White House briefing that the CDC continued to recommend that masks should have two or more layers, completely cover one’s nose and mouth, and fit snugly against one’s nose and the sides of one’s face.
The CDC tested two simple modifications to improve commonly used masks’ performance by double masking and knotting. This involved folding mask edges inward and knotting ear loop strings to flatten excess fabric and reduce gaps on either side of the face.
A knotted medical mask effectively blocked 63% of particles that could contain coronavirus from escaping, which was higher than 42%. Also, when both an infected and uninfected person knotted and tucked their masks, the cumulative exposure was reduced by 95.9%, the CDC found.
Meanwhile, in another development, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in all adults, a decision that gave assurance to developing nations and others without their own regulatory bodies to start rolling out the shot CNN reported.
The much-anticipated recommendation comes after the approval of the vaccine by several European nations for emergency use. However, it was not recommended in adults aged more than 65 over safety concerns due to a lack of clinical trial data for that age group. However, the UK had been vaccinating people in the age group for weeks with the shot, and there had been no developments to raise concerns, CNN reported.
The WHO also recommended the use of the vaccine in countries where several variants of Covid-19 were circulating, even though a study in South Africa showed that the shot offered minimal protection against mild and moderate disease from the South African variant. The AstraZeneca shot was much cheaper and was easier to store than several others on the market. It was seen as a crucial vaccine for ending the pandemic.
In a related development, the chief of Britain’s genetic surveillance program has warned that the UK variant that had “swept the country” would likely “sweep the world” and become the dominant version of Covid-19 globally.
According to Sharon Peacock, director of the Covid-19 Genomics UK consortium, her sequencing work, which tracked mutations of the coronavirus, would likely be required for another decade as it continued to circulate throughout the world. The UK variant was first identified in September 2020 in the southern English county of Kent and had been detected in over 80 countries.
She told the BBC’s Newscast podcast that they were building up a list, a kind of leader board of mutations that they worried about.
Speaking on the origins of the UK variant, known as B.1.1.7, she said that increasing scientific literature suggested it had evolved in an immunosuppressed patient, CNN reported.