Top VCU doctor says consider wearing two masks


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Emerging variants of the coronavirus may be reason for the public to start wearing two masks, according to a top infectious disease expert at VCU Health.

In an interview with 8News, Chair of VCU’s Division of Infectious Disease Dr. Gonzalo Bearman said wearing two face masks would “probably be reasonable,” as mutant strains of the novel coronavirus appear. The new strains possess the potential to be more contagious and it remains uncertain if today’s vaccines are as effective against them.

“At the very beginning of the pandemic we were not recommending wearing two masks or even a mask in public at the very beginning, and then we went to public mask use. Certainly as we learn more about the infectivity or infectiousness of these new variants, and if the vaccines are not as effective against us those variants, then wearing two masks or ‘double masking’ would probably be reasonable,” Bearman said.

A Northern Virginia adult reportedly carried the new coronavirus variant from the United Kingdom, according to the Virginia Department of Health and the Department of General services Monday.

In a press release, the VDH said the variant was found in a sample from an adult with no reported recent travel history.

A VDH spokesperson denied to say where exactly the strain was detected.

While scientists continue to learn about mutant strains, variants are expected as the virus travels.

“Considerably more infectious or believed to be more infectious. Not entirely clear if it results in more severe infection but it certainly has concern for being more easily transmitted,” Bearman said.

Viral mutants have also been reported in South Africa, Brazil and California.

Bearman said today’s vaccines are currently promising at preventing severe illness from the U.K. viral variant.

“The current vaccine, the Pfizer and the Moderna, is probably as effective in preventing severe infection and symptomatic infection. We hope that that will be long-lasting and that there are new strains coming in the future that make the vaccine less effective,” Bearman said.

“It is still critically important for the public to get vaccinated. And with that in mind, even if one is vaccinated with ongoing community transmission we still have to respect social distancing we still have to wear a face mask.”

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