Time to Upgrade Your Mask

By McKenzie Schwark
Feature Writer

Now that you’re used to wearing a mask, it’s time to double your efforts.

New coronavirus variants have made their way to the United States, and they appear to be easier to catch than earlier variants throughout the pandemic. 

The new strain looks to be more dangerous 

Early research suggests the new UK variant is easier to catch. It’s normal for viruses to undergo mutations, and unfortunately for all of us, coronavirus has had its chance to metamorphose. Studies suggest the new UK variant of the coronavirus is 56% more transmissible than the original virus. That means wearing a single mask and keeping six feet apart might not cut it anymore. Although this pandemic feels like it has lasted a decade already, the coronavirus has only been with us for about a year, and we’re really learning as we go and as things change. As we do, it’s best to err on the side of caution, because not doing so means more sick people and more hospitalizations.  

It’s time to start double masking

Dr. Anthony Fauci has called double masking “just common sense” as more information on the new variants of coronavirus has become available. The coronavirus is an airborne virus, which means it transmits most easily through droplets in the air. Our best defense against COVID-19 is still masking up, but a standard fabric mask may not be enough to protect against the new strain. Experts now recommend double masking. Dr. Dave Hnida described double-masking as being like “an obstacle course” for a virus. Every layer is an additional hurdle for the virus particles to have to figure their way through. 

You don’t necessarily need to double up on masks all of the time. If you’re, say, taking your dog out, a single mask and social distancing is still fine. But if you’re headed to the grocery store, or somewhere where you will be indoors with people outside of your household, double masking is your best bet against the new variants of coronavirus. You can find additional and updated information on masks here

But won’t double masking kind of suck? 

Remember that there was a time almost a year ago when none of us were used to wearing a single mask. It felt funky at first, but now it’s a part of all of our daily routines. Double masking might be a bit more uncomfortable than sporting a single mask, but double masking will be necessary to mitigate the spread of the new variants of coronavirus. The reality is 420,000 people have died thus far from COVID-19 in the United States, and millions have been hospitalized. Until the vast majority of the population has been vaccinated, double masking is one of the steps we can all take in order to help control the spread.  

Keep it clean

As we all begin double masking and wearing our masks more often, it’s important to also properly clean them. Cloth masks should be cleaned between each use. Reusable masks can be thrown into a washing machine and drier, or hand washed in hot water and left to air dry. 

It’s been a long, tough year, and it is looking like we have some rough months ahead. But as the vaccine continues to roll out, there is a lot of hope to hang onto. We’re hopefully making our way to the final stretch of this thing, and if we all hunker down and follow the guidelines, the finish line will be that much closer.

Keep social distancing. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. And double up your masks.