New Guidance From DOH – Double Mask Up!

Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. City Hall. Thursday, February 18, 2021. Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

The NYC Department of Health (DOH) says we should double mask when possible to increase protection against COVID-19. The new guidance was issued in response to new guidance from the CDC, and asks residents to wear face coverings as follows: 

  • Face masks and coverings should fit snugly and cover the nose and mouth entirely. Many face-coverings, even those that cover the nose and mouth, are loose around the face and slip easily. It is important to make sure that face masks fit tightly against the face to prevent air from entering and escaping. Here is how to properly put on a mask. 
  • Double mask up, or wear face coverings with two to three layers of material. Face coverings with one layer of material do not prevent unfiltered air from passing through, only those with two to three layers of material are effective. The Health Dept. advises wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask to ensure proper filtration. This also helps keep masks fitting snugly against the face. Disposable masks should not be worn on top of each other, however, as they will not fit properly and potentially allow air to enter and escape. 
  • Those with underlying conditions should consider wearing high-grade masks. People with health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity should wear high-grade masks such as a KN95 mask which is similar in composition to the N95 mask. The Health Dept. suggests that N95 masks be reserved for healthcare workers. KN95 masks can be bought online or from local shops. 
  • Masks should be worn at home if any members of the household are sick or were exposed to the virus. If individuals in a household are unable to quarantine in separate rooms if sick or exposed to Covid-19, other members of the household should wear maintain as much social distance as possible and wear a mask. Masks should also be worn inside the home if individuals from outside of the household are present. 
Infographic from the CDC website with face-covering guidelines.

“Masks help us face the world and each other but it’s important that we cover up correctly,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. “The strategies we’re sharing today will help shield all of us from COVID-19. The most important thing remains wearing face coverings consistently and properly, covering both your nose and mouth, indoors and outdoors.”

Here are a few more important guidelines to keep in mind: 

  • Do not use face coverings and masks with exhalation valves. Such masks are not equipped to protect against virus spread. They allow air to escape and should not be worn.
  • Use cloth face coverings should be made with tightly woven fabric. Materials that are not made of tightly woven threads allow air to enter and escape, and are therefore ineffective against virus spread. Cloth masks should be made of sturdy but breathable fabrics, such as cotton. One way to test if your cloth mask will be effective is by holding it up to bright light. Tightly woven fabrics will not let light through. 

For more information, click on the CDC’s extensive guide here or visit NYC Health’s frequently asked questions page. You can also watch the city’s full announcement here

If you or someone you know is at higher risk due to underlying illness, more information is offered through the NYC Health website. 

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