Mask Styles Not as Important as Fit, Experts Claim

The assertion that neck gaiters and bandannas have been said to provide little help in the spread of COVID-19 was the conclusion of a recent Duke University study. However, experts on aerosols have called into question the results of the study.

The original Duke University study was published in American Association for the Advancement of Science and used optical imaging technology to measure the spread of droplets during regular speech. The study found neck gaiters and cotton bandannas were ineffective in preventing the spread of droplets.

“Considering that smaller particles are airborne longer than large droplets (larger droplets sink faster), the use of such a mask might be counterproductive,” the study said of bandannas and neck gaiters.

The study also did not support the use of N95 masks with valves: “Such a valve allows air to move from the wearer’s mouth and nose through the mask without going through the main filter,” the study said. “While this may make exhaling easier, at the same time, it may permit viruses to get on through to the other side.”

Professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, Linsey Marr, says fabric face covering can be effective in preventing the spread of droplets. “There’s nothing inherent about a neck gaiter that should make it any worse than a cloth mask,” said Marr. “It comes down to the fabric and how well it fits.” When it comes to face coverings, two layers of fabric are better than one and a snug fit is the best way to ensure protection.

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