With COVID variants, Angelenos should wear higher quality masks or double masks, says virologist

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The coronavirus vaccine rollout in Los Angeles and across the country has hit many snags. Mutations of the virus have emerged, including a powerful South African strain that’s made its way to America, with cases reportedly discovered in South Carolina. Those other strains likely have a higher risk of transmission.

What does that mean for the daily lives of Angelenos? Should people be investing in mask upgrades or double-masking? KCRW gets guidance from Paula Cannon, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. 

“The underlying message is that everybody needs to up their mask game. … Wear a better quality mask. If you’ve been wearing that kind of bandanna mask … and you can see daylight through it, time to not wear that anymore,” says Cannon.

She says if you have large gaps around the edges of your mask, viruses can go through that space when you breathe, so it’s important to get a better seal. 

If you can’t get an N95 mask or KN95 mask, then turn to double making, Cannon advises. “You do provide a higher degree of filtration. It’s common sense that you’ve got twice the amount of material. But in addition, you can sort of use two masks to help you with this fit on your face.” 

She says she likes to wear a surgical mask, then put a cloth mask on top, which she can pull tightly behind the back of her head.