STUDY: FAU researchers look at effectiveness of different styles of face masks

Posted at 5:28 PM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 18:07:09-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Do the masks you wear really stop your cough or sneeze from spreading? Florida Atlantic University researchers studied the effectiveness of different face coverings the general public can get their hands on.

Researchers in FAU's College of Engineering and Computer Science tested different bandana styles -- from the multi-layered covering to the homemade mask and then the cone-style covering. The CDC recommends masks in public to help prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to other people.

“In addition to providing an initial indication of the effectiveness of protective equipment, the visuals used in our study can help convey to the general public the rationale behind social-distancing guidelines and recommendations for using facemasks,” said Siddhartha Verma, Ph.D., lead author and assistant professor.

On a mannequin without a mask, researchers saw droplets travel up to 12 feet in about 50 seconds.

They say well-fitted masks with many layers and cone styles did the best job at reducing droplet spread.

Loosely folded and bandana coverings worked to some degree. The study noted 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."

According to the study, droplets traveled more than 8 feet without a mask; 3 feet, 7 inches with a bandana; 1 foot, 3 inches with a folded cotton handkerchief; 2.5 inches with a stitched quilted cotton mask; and about 8 inches with a cone-style mask.

“You wouldn’t, if you’re a police officer, go out without your flak jacket,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson, USF Health professor of Public Health, Medicine, and Pharmacy. “It’s uncomfortable, its heavy, and on days like this, it’s warm, but you never know. So you protect yourself and you protect your family.”

Dr. Wolfson said people may resist wearing masks because they haven’t personally experienced the effects of COVID-19 on themselves or their families.

“This is not a game, but there’s a risk,” said Dr. Wolfson. “The likelihood is you may not get it and if you do get it, it’s going to be mild, but if you get it, you have a very good chance of giving it to others.”