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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!
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