Face of nurse in sterile mask looking at camera over white background

How Effective is Your Face Mask?

Photo by Julian Wan on UnsplashCollege of DuPage Nursing Student Michelle Pasqua shared with Healthy Lombard that as the coronavirus continues to impact people on a global scale, many different styles and types of masks have been introduced to the public. As much as these masks differ in material and shape, they also differ in efficacy. With so many options to choose from, selecting the correct mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can be challenging. A recent study conducted by Duke University, in August of 2020 compared the number of respiratory droplets transferred while speaking with each mask on.

The study tested several masks including N95 masks, surgical masks, homemade cotton masks, bandanas, and neck gaiters. As expected, N95 masks and surgical masks offered the highest prevention of transfer of respiratory droplets. Homemade cloth masks made of cotton offered adequate coverage as well, and allow the general public to prevent the spread of coronavirus while reserving the most efficacious masks for first responders and health care providers. Bandanas offered better protection than not wearing any face covering but were not nearly as effective as cotton masks. Neck gaiters, however, appear to be less effective in preventing the spread of coronavirus than not wearing any face covering.

These results may be shocking to some who have chosen bandanas and neck gaiters as their means of preventing the spread of the coronavirus. While the efficacy of each mask differs, it is still crucial that the public wear face masks to help slow the progress of COVID-19. According to Hackensack Meridian Health, respiratory droplets “can travel and linger in the air up to 26 feet and for minutes at a time” (Woehnker, 2020). Because of this, and the fact that people who have the virus may not show symptoms, it is important to wear an effective face mask. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. “cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting” (CDC, 2020). As people attempt to do their part in slowing down the progress of the coronavirus, it is important to understand how effective their face covering is at preventing the transfer of respiratory droplets.


Figure 1. Relative droplet transmission through the corresponding mask. Each solid data point represents the mean and SD over 10 trials for the same mask, normalized to the control trial (no mask), and tested by one speaker. Hollow data points are the mean and SDs of the relative counts over four speakers.


Works Cited

CDC calls on Americans to wear masks to prevent COVID-19 spread. (2020, July 14). Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p0714-americans-to-wear-masks.html

Fischer, E., Fischer, M., Grass, D., Henrion, I., Warren, W., & Westman, E. (2020, September 01). Low-cost measurement of face mask efficacy for filtering expelled droplets during the speech. Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/36/eabd3083

Fischer, E., Fischer, M., Grass, D., Henrion, I., Warren, W., & Westman, E. (2020, September 02). Droplet Transmission Through Face Masks [Digital image]. Retrieved September 14, 2020, from https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/36/eabd3083

Woehnker, K. (2020, August 26). Which Masks Are Most Effective and Why? – COVID-19, Health Topics. Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/HealthU/2020/08/26/which-masks-are-most-effective-and-why/



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