Well, it used to be a California-only thing. We all know about the mask/face covering requirement in place in most areas to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Early on in shelter-in-place, many California counties released notices from their health departments citing the proper use of face coverings and which types were and were not appropriate. My county made a point to mention that masks with filtration ducts (little plastic circles which allowed for better breathing when the air had to be filtered) were not suitable for COVID protection.
Because they allow for breath and droplets to leave your mask as you exhale. These types of masks were produced for cleaning the air going in, not going out. BUT, then came the fires. All of a sudden we were faced with a problem: regular cloth face coverings do not filter the air and protect us from the harmful smoke and poor air quality. You would need an N95 or other mask with a filter for that. So, cue double-masking: the practice of wearing two masks simultaneously in order to protect against both COVID-19 spread and particulate matter inhalation.
I am sure there are some surgical-grade masks out there which will do both…or those meant to be used during the apocalypse…but our county recommended double-masking for those of us on a budget.
Luckily, my family and I had received vogmasks some time ago because I worked near a refinery. Vogmasks donated a bunch of masks to the nonprofit I worked for and I still had mine saved. Double-masking is simple. Take your mask with the air filter and put it on. Then take your cloth face-covering and put it on over the first mask. I know it sounds obstructive, but if your masks are not too tight, it is actually not that bad.
I double-masked all day at the office and had no problem (except for my ears looking like elf-ears, but that is a different issue…that and fogging glasses…someone get NASA on this). For the minor discomfort, I breathed a lot easier and was not affected by the smoke.
I have also found double-masking to be useful when driving, as smoke tends to get into the car even with the windows up.