If you don’t want to double mask, here’s how to make surgical masks more effective

The more contagious COVID variant first found in the U.K. is now doubling in prevalence roughly every 10 days in the U.S. At the current pace of vaccination, some people won’t get shots until the end of the year. The collision of the growing strain and our slow vaccination rate is one reason masks are such an important tool now. But with N95 masks still in short supply, the CDC now says that layering two masks can offer similar protection. But it’s not the only solution: just making a surgical mask fit better can also help.

In lab tests, the CDC found that exposure to infectious particles dropped around 95%—the same performance guaranteed by N95 masks—when masks fit tightly. One way to do that is “knotting and tucking,” or making a knot at the edge of a medical procedure mask (more commonly called a surgical mask by the public) along the edges, and then tucking in the extra material to make the mask as flat as possible on the face. Here’s a simple demonstration:


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