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Know your mask!

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of masks/facial coverings has become an effective tactic in our effort to curb the spread of this virus. The purpose of the face mask is to reduce the transmission of particles or droplets that originate from the mouth and/or nose of each individual. At the start of the pandemic, both N-95 and surgical masks were in high demand causing many individuals to turn to at home solutions. While all of these alternative face coverings help in reducing the particles/droplets that are released into the air, they differ in their overall effectiveness. A recent study conducted out of Duke University examined the effectiveness of the most common masks, including N-95, surgical, cloth, bandana, and neck gaiters. The efficacy of these masks was tested by examining the relative droplet transmission after the researcher reads a passage while wearing each of the different masks. This design is meant to simulate the droplets that can go airborne during regular conversation. All masks in the study showed a reduction in droplet transmission when compared to the no mask control scenario, with the exception of neck gaiters. However, the poor protection results found for neck gaiters may be due to the fact that they can disperse larger droplets into many smaller sized droplets. The most effective masks found in this study were N-95 and surgical masks, with the least effective being bandanas and neck gaiters. These results support the need to not only wear masks, but to choose those that are most effective when available. Images of the masks used in the study and their corresponding effectiveness are listed above. It is also important to remember to wear the mask properly above the nose and below the chin to prevent droplets from escaping. Masks in conjunction with proper social distancing and handwashing all help in our fight against COVID-19. We hope the information was useful and we wish everybody and happy and safe holiday season!

 

Reference

Fischer, E., Fischer, M., Grass, D., Henrion, I., Warren, W. and Westman, E., 2020. Low-Cost Measurement Of Face Mask Efficacy For Filtering Expelled Droplets During Speech. [online] ScienceMag.org. Available at: <https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/36/eabd3083> [Accessed 20 December 2020].