DETROIT – As concern grows over the new and more contagious COVID-19 variant experts are urging Americans to upgrade their masks or consider double masking especially in higher risk situations.
Less than a month after first being detected in the US the variant of COVID-19 initially discovered in the United Kingdom has been found in at least 23 states including Michigan.
Health experts warn the new COVID-19 variant could become the dominant strain by March.
This strain has the potential to spread very quickly in the country.
Researchers are working to determine if the variant has a higher death rate, but it’s already clear the strain is much easier to transmit.
To prevent a more disastrous surge doctors say it is time to double down on mask wearing.
“This is not something to wait on. We should be getting higher quality masks and people should be wearing higher quality masks, more or less right away,” said Ashish Jha, a public health expert.
N95 masks are still the gold standard blocking 95 percent of particles when properly fitted.
However, they are harder to find and prioritized for healthcare workers. Experts now say the next best thing may be double masking.
“Wearing two masks helps improve the filtration ability of the mask in both directions and so it helps protect you better and it helps protect others,” said Dr. Linsey Marre, an airborne disease transmission expert.
Researchers at Virginia Tech found layering two cloth masks can up the efficacy from 50 percent to 75 percent and wearing a three-layer mask can block up to 90 percent of particles providing near N95 protection.
Ideal for so-called “high risk” situations like traveling, going to the grocery store or gathering with others.
You want to wear your best possible mask, which includes multiple layers ideally, some kind of filter material, and a really good fit.
“If you have a physical covering with one layer, if you put another layer on it just makes sense that it likely would be more effective,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president.
Experts say wearing a single lower grade medical face covering like a KF94 or a double layered cloth covering with a high thread count will provide a basic level of protection, if there’s a secure fit.
The bottom line, more layers mean more protection. Bandanas, gaiters, and other loose-fitting or single layer face covering are not enough.
If you’re going to double mask, experts say you want to make sure the higher quality mask is closest to your face, then layer the additional mask over that making sure you have a snug fit over your mouth and nose.
That fit is just as important as how many layers it contains.
The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Michigan has risen to 551,080 as of Friday, including 14,326 deaths, state officials report.
Monday’s update includes 3,011 new cases and 35 additional deaths over the past two days.