As the number of coronavirus cases in the US continues to rise, there are people who are still protesting face masks, and in more extreme cases, even banning them. But while the CDC has called for Americans to wear masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus, there's a difference in efficacy in, say, an N95 mask and a neck gaiter, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at Duke University.
In the study, researchers devised a way to test the effectiveness of different masks by measuring the droplet transmission rates of a person speaking without a mask and with 14 of the most commonly used masks.
Per the study, the N95 mask is the most effective mask, and "no droplets at all" escaped during the test, according to study co-author Warren S. Warren. Surgical masks are also relatively effective at stopping droplet transmission, along with cotton polypropylene masks. Neck gaiters (identified as "neck fleece" in the study), however, ranked the worst — even compared to going maskless.
It's worth noting that the study does not specify the material of the neck gaiters used in the study and that "the high droplet count observed in the study could be linked to the porous fabric of the neck gaiter […] breaking up bigger particles into many little ones that are more likely to hang around in the air longer," according to The Washington Post. And with a relatively small sample size, the study has its limits when it comes to evaluating whether or not neck gaiters are helping stop the spread of COVID-19, though the broad takeaway of the test does confirm what health officials have been telling us for a long time: wear a mask, people. They work.
[Read the academic paper here]