Dr. Osterholm contradicts Dr. Fauci's double-masking recommendation

January 27, 2021

    A recommendation about double-masking by White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci isn't receiving any praise from one of the nation's leading experts on COVID-19.

    Dr. Michael Osterholm, who leads the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, refuted Dr. Fauci's claim that double-layering would likely make masking "more effective."

    "I do not support the idea of two masks," said Dr. Osterholm, who spoke to WCCO Radio's Cory Hepola on Wednesday morning.

    Osterholm explained that masks work based on how they fit and their filtration.

    "Masks, as they're defined work in two ways. The first is in regards to how that masks fits. How well does it fit around you? It's like swimming goggles. They don't usually leak through the lenses they leak through the seal around your eyes or face," said Osterholm.

    Dr. Osterholm pointed out the N95 respirators are so highly regarded because of how they filter out the virus.

    "They have a very tight face fit and the material that's used basically for the filters is electrostatically charged," he said. "The pore size lets air travel through easily, but the virus is trapped as it comes through by an electrostatic charge in the respirator."

    Doubling up on masks would likely lead to more harm, than good, when it comes to cloth face masks, or even N95 respirators.

    "If you put more of it on, all it does is it impedes the air coming through and it makes it blow in and out along the sides. The fit becomes even less effective," Osterholm said. "Double masking could be a detriment to your protection."

    Studies indicate that multi-layers facemasks can block between 50 and 70 percent of fine droplets and particles, limiting the spread of COVID-19.

    So far, the Centers for Disease Control has not recommended double masking.

    Along with double masking, Dr. Osterholm discussed in-person schooling as it pertains to elementary, junior high, and high school-aged students.

    A study published in a CDC journal suggests evidence supports in-person learning, given schools require masking and other COVID-19 precautions.

    Dr. Osterholm says he supports schools bringing back students for in-person learning, but there needs to be flexibility.

    "This new variant isolate that we're concerned about, the B117 from the United Kingdom, there is evidence in Europe that once it gets into the community, it could be a different situation for schools," he said. "We're going to have to follow that very carefully and if schools experience outbreaks from this particular variant, that we're going to need to possibly reconsider this school recommendation."

    High school and youth sports, however, remain an area of concern.

    "We have seen an increased number of outbreaks in high school sports," Osterholm said. "It's ironic that we send kids home for distance learning in our junior high and high schools, yet we bring them back for practices and participating in athletics. That's where we see the outbreaks. It's an issue we're going to have to deal with going forward, how much transmission occurs in this group and where."

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