Two Masks Are the New Masks

Double-masking is a sensible and easy way to lower your risk when you have to spend more time around others — in a taxi, on a train or plane, or at an inauguration.

By Tara Parker-Pope

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Many of us who watched the inauguration this week were delighted by the fashion on display — the colorful matching coat and mask ensembles worn by the first lady, Jill Biden, and the Biden granddaughters, the power purple worn by Vice President Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, and of course, Senator Bernie Sanders’s delightful mittens made of recycled wool sweaters.

But the fashion trend that most excited me was the double mask! Double-masking is a sensible and easy way to lower your risk, especially if circumstances require you to spend more time around others — like in a taxi, on a train or plane, or at an inauguration. Pete Buttigieg, the former presidential candidate and now the nominee for secretary of transportation, was spotted double-masking. It appears he was wearing a high-quality medical mask underneath a black cloth mask. His husband, Chasten, was sporting a similar double-masked look, but with a fashionable plaid cloth mask that coordinated with his winter scarf.

We should all be thinking about the quality of our masks right now. New variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge, and one in particular is cause for pressing concern in the United States because it’s so contagious and spreading fast. I wrote about the steps you can take to better protect yourself.

The bottom line is that you should keep taking the same pandemic precautions you always have, but do a little better. The new variant spreading in the United States appears to latch onto our cells more efficiently. (You can find a detailed look inside the variant here.) The mutation in the virus may mean it could take less virus and less time in the same room with an infected person for someone to become ill. People infected with the variant may also shed larger quantities of virus, which increases the risk to people around them.

That’s why the quality of your mask is more important than ever. You can read about the latest research urging a well-fitted two- or three-layer mask. Or you can keep the masks you’ve been using and just double-mask when you go to the store or find yourself spending time with people from outside your household. You can read more about double-masking here.

One big advantage of double-masking that I’ve found is that it creates a better fit and closes the gaps around the edge of your mask. I like layering my masks. When I walk the dog or exercise outdoors, I wear a regular mask to comply with area mask rules. When I want more protection for short errands, I wear a better mask. When I’m in a taxi or on a train, I double-mask.

I’ve just bought a new set of masks called KF94s that I really like. They fit well, have added flaps to close gaps around the face and include a moldable band to tighten the fit around the bridge of the nose. Now I wear a KF94, a type of mask made in South Korea that can be purchased easily online, covered by a cloth mask. I recently learned about the KF94 from Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Dr. Jha notes that the gold-standard N95 masks are still hard to find, and we should save them for health workers. The KF94 mask resembles an N95, with some differences. It’s made of a similar nonwoven material that blocks 94 percent of the hardest-to-trap viral particles. But the KF94 has ear loops, instead of elastic head bands, so it won’t fit as snugly as an N95 — although double-masking can help close any gaps.

The KF94 is also disposable — you can buy a pack of 20 for about $40 on Amazon. While you can let a KF94 mask air dry and reuse it several times, it can’t be laundered and won’t last as long as a cloth mask. One solution is to save your KF94 mask for higher-risk situations — like riding a subway, spending time in a store or going to a doctor’s appointment.

And speaking of masks: If you, like me, shouted at your television when you saw Chief Justice John Roberts’s mask slipping below his nose at the inauguration, then you’ll enjoy this story from my colleague James Gorman on the Science desk: Is Mask-Slipping the New Manspreading?

Distractions: The nation was captivated this week by Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, who read “The Hill We Climb.” You can watch the video of her appearance and learn more about the back story in “Amanda Gorman Captures the Moment, in Verse.” The Times wrote about Ms. Gorman in 2017 when she was named “America’s First Youth Poet Laureate.” But the best interview with Ms. Gorman was with CNN’s Anderson Cooper in the hours after the inauguration. It’s an eight-minute chat about the research she did before writing the poem, the mantra she says to herself before every reading and how Twitter, the musical “Hamilton” and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol all influenced the final work. Watch the full interview here, which left Mr. Cooper at a loss for words, other than to tell the young poet, “Wow! You’re awesome.”

As usual, the Well team has been hard at work sharing the latest advice for living well everyday. Jane Brody has exciting developments in hip replacement surgery. Gretchen Reynolds weighs in on the benefits of moderate exercise. And here’s some big news! We now have a shareable link for those of you who want to do the Standing 7-Minute Workout more often!


The Standing 7-Minute Workout

All you need is a wall, a chair for balance and sturdy shoes for this workout from Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute.

Hi, everyone. Chris Jordan here, and welcome to my Standing 7-Minute Workout. No floor exercises, just a chair and a wall, and that’s all you need. We’re going to do 12 exercises, 30 seconds per exercise and 5 seconds’ rest in between. Remember, check with your doctor and make sure it’s safe for you to exercise before you start exercising. Don’t exercise if you think you’re going to experience any adverse effects. And of course, during exercise, stop straight away if you have any pains and problems. Make sure you get yourself warmed up and we’ll get started. All right, here we go with our first exercise — marching/jogging in place. Let’s go. Raise those knees. Pump those arms. This is a cardio exercise. The goal here, let’s get our heart rate up. If you can, let’s go into a jog, a jog in place. Pump those arms. Raise those knees. Get on to the balls of your feet. Pick up the pace, if you can. Looking good. All right, too much, then slow it down. Go back down to a march in place. Remember, just for your fitness level. 3, 2, 1. Done. Next exercise for the legs — chair assist squats. Here we go. Feet about shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, then lower yourself towards the chair. Use your arms to counterbalance. Go as deep as you can go while maintaining good form and good technique. Keep those knees behind the toes. Can’t go so deep, that’s OK. Come down halfway. Beautiful. Keep going. Once again, use the arms to counterbalance. 3, 2, 1. Done. Time for something for the upper body. Let’s do a wall push-up. Hands against the wall, feet away, body straight from head to heel, and lower yourself and push away against the wall. Feel the arms, shoulders and chest work each time you lower and push yourself away. Too hard? Bring your feet a bit closer. Too easy? Bring your feet a little bit further away. You’re doing great. Keep breathing. We’re almost done. 3, 2, 1. Next exercise for the core — standing bicycle crunches. Hands behind the ears. Here we go. March in place, and bring the opposite elbow to the opposite knee. Twist your upper body and crunch the abs as you do so. Looking good. If you can’t touch the knee with your elbow, just do the best you can. Get as close as you can, but make sure you’re crunching the abs, bringing the upper body towards the lower body. 3, 2, 1. Done. Time for cardio exercise — stand or squat and box. Let’s go. Feet shoulder width apart, a bit wider, and punch. There’s your stand and box. If you can, let’s throw in a squat as well as a box. Looking good. Remember, the goal here — cardio. Let’s get that heart rate up again. Punch a bit faster. Squat a bit faster. Too much? Just stand still and punch. Here we go. Almost there. 3, 2, 1. Done. Move along. Time for the legs — chair assist split squat. Left foot in front, right foot behind. Drop the right knee towards the ground. Keep the front knee behind the front toes. There we go. Use the chair for balance and stability, if you need to. Beautiful. All right, switch legs. Right in front, left behind. Same movement. Drop the back knee towards the ground. Nice upright posture. Keep breathing. Adjust your range for your fitness level. 3, 2, 1. Done. Let’s move along. Time for an upper body exercise. Let’s do a chair assist push-up. Hands on the edge of the chair, feet away, and let’s go. Get that body straight from head to heel. Lower the body towards the chair, and feel the arms, shoulders, and chest work each time you lower and push away. Squeeze the abs, squeeze the core, squeeze the glutes and the legs to keep the body straight and stable. Almost there. Here we go. 3, 2, 1. Move along. It’s time to do another core exercise. Let’s do a wall plank. Forearms against the wall, feet away, body straight from head to heel. There’s your plank. You can do this on the floor, and you can do this against the wall. Same thing. Once again, too easy? Take your feet further away. Too hard? Bring your feet closer to the wall. You got this. Feel the abs work hard to maintain that body straight from head to heel. Squeeze the legs and the glutes too. 3, 2, 1. Time to move on. Next exercise — stepping or jumping jacks. Here we go. It’s cardio time. What’s the goal? Let’s get that heart rate up. Here’s the stepping jack. If you can, join me in a jumping jack. A little bit harder, higher impact, but it’ll get your heart rate up. If you can do this, do it. If you can’t, that’s OK, you go back down to a stepping jack. Let’s get the heart rate up, but do it safely. 3, 2, 1. Done. Time for a leg exercise. Let’s do a wall sit. Sit against the wall, knees directly above your ankles. Back flat against the wall, arms folded. Hold that position. Once again, you can adjust. Too hard? Come up a little bit higher. Too easy? Come down a little bit lower. You find the right level for you. Stick to it. You’ve got it. Feel the muscles of the upper legs working hard to keep you braced in position. You’ve got this. Here we go. 3, 2, 1. Done. Let’s work on the upper body again. We’re going back to the wall, wall push-up. Hands against the wall. You know what to do. Feet away, and lower yourself. Once again, feel the arms, shoulders, chest working hard as you push away and lower yourself back towards the wall. Keep breathing. And you know you can adjust your feet position to make it easier or harder. Almost there. Here we go. 3, 2, 1. Last exercise for the core — standing side crunch. Hands behind the ears. Watch this. Right knee to right elbow, left knee to the left elbow. Do the best you can to touch knee to elbow. If you cannot, that’s O.K., just do the best you can. Make sure you’re bending at the upper body and the core to bring the knee and elbow towards each other. You’ll feel this in the sides of the abdominals, a side crunch. Excellent. 3, 2, 1. Done. Congratulations. You just completed my Standing 7-Minute Workout. Great job. Come back and try it again.

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