This is the #1 Best Ever Face Mask, Study Says
With Texas and California mandating face masks statewide, and experts saying face masks can be the one thing between you and COVID-19, the message is clear: Wear your face mask. But which kind is best at preventing the spread? That's what a team at Florida Atlantic University asked themselves, and they say they came up with the answer.
"The use of face masks in public settings has been widely recommended by public health officials during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The masks help mitigate the risk of cross-infection via respiratory droplets; however, there are no specific guidelines on mask materials and designs that are most effective in minimizing droplet dispersal," say the authors in Physics of Fluids. "We use qualitative visualizations of emulated coughs and sneezes to examine how material- and design-choices impact the extent to which droplet-laden respiratory jets are blocked."
What Works, What Doesn't
What Doesn't Work So Well: "Loosely folded face masks and bandana-style coverings provide minimal stopping-capability for the smallest aerosolized respiratory droplets."
What Works Best: "Well-fitted homemade masks with multiple layers of quilting fabric, and off-the-shelf cone style masks, proved to be the most effective in reducing droplet dispersal. These masks were able to curtail the speed and range of the respiratory jets significantly, albeit with some leakage through the mask material and from small gaps along the edges. Importantly, uncovered emulated coughs were able to travel notably farther than the currently recommended 6-ft distancing guideline."
The fact that uncovered coughs were able to spread COVID-19 so far is reason enough to wear a face mask, since each droplet could spread the disease. "After being expelled into the ambient environment, the respiratory droplets experience varying degrees of evaporation depending on their size, ambient humidity, and temperature," write the authors. "The smallest droplets may undergo complete evaporation, leaving behind a dried-out spherical mass consisting of the particulate contents…These desiccated nuclei, in combination with the smallest droplets, are potent transmission sources."
The researchers' work is not just interesting; it can save lives. "Infectious respiratory illnesses can exact a heavy socio-economic toll on the most vulnerable members of our society, as has become evident from the current COVID-19 pandemic," report the authors. "The disease has overwhelmed healthcare infrastructure worldwide, and its high contagion rate and relatively long incubation period have made it difficult to trace and isolate infected individuals. Current estimates indicate that about 35% of infected individuals do not display overt symptoms and may contribute to the significant spread of the disease without their knowledge." In an effort to contain the unabated community spread of the disease," they continue, "public health officials have recommended the implementation of various preventative measures, including social-distancing and the use of face masks in public settings."
So: wear a well-fitted homemade mask with multiple layers of quilting fabric, or an off-the-shelf cone style mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, monitor your health, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.