California Advises Double Masking as Texas, Mississippi Ditch Mandates

As a handful of U.S. states ditch mask mandates amid the ongoing COVID pandemic, health officials in California have doubled down.

California's health department updated its advice about the most effective use of masks and when to consider "double masking" on Thursday, after Gov. Gavin Newsom said the decision to stop enforcing face covering use in Texas was "absolutely reckless."

The California public health agency said masks remain "essential" as they limit spread of the disease, which is critical as new COVID variants emerge.

"Good fit and filtration improve protection for others if you are infected and protection for you if you are exposed to an infected person," it explained in a release on Thursday, as the state logged 3,504 new cases of the disease over the past 24 hours.

It added: "Double masking is an effective way to improve fit and filtration. A close-fitting cloth mask can be worn on top of a surgical/disposable mask to improve the seal."

Officials noted that layering more than two masks is not recommended as it could make it difficult for the wearer to breathe comfortably, and also advised against layering two medical-strength masks as that can interfere with how they seal to the face.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a media briefing on Thursday his state will "double down on mask wearing," referring to those who have abandoned the practice despite it still being the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"We will not be walking down their path. We're mindful of your health and our future," he said while rejecting the other state decisions, NBC Los Angeles reported.

"I'll just note... that positivity rates in those states [are] substantially higher than even here in the state of California, and yet we still feel very, very strongly as we begin to loosen things up and reopen our economy that mask-wearing [becomes] now more essential as we transition to herd immunity and broad access to vaccines."

At least five U.S. states have dropped—or have announced plans to drop—state mask mandates: Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, Montana and North Dakota.

As reported by ABC News, those states will now align with 11 additional states—Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee—that have never enforced residents to mask up.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced on Tuesday he was lifting the mask mandate and letting all businesses open at 100 percent capacity from March 10. Mississippi's Gov. Tate Reeves replaced a mandate with a recommendation on March 3.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted the state mask mandate in early February. North Dakota state-level mask rules expired in January, while Montana's also expired February.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday described the most recent decisions to end mask mandates in Texas and Mississippi as "Neanderthal thinking."

He said from the White House: "I think it's a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody has realized by now: These masks make a difference.

"We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we're able to get vaccines in people's arms.

"We've been able to move that [timescale] all the way up to the end of May to have enough [doses] for every adult American to get a shot. And the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that, in the meantime, everything is fine, take off your mask."

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom looks on during a news conference after touring Barron Park Elementary School on March 02, 2021 in Palo Alto, California. As a handful of U.S. states ditch mask mandates amid the ongoing COVID pandemic, health officials in California have doubled down. Justin Sullivan/Getty