BOCA RATON, FL – Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have turned to homemade means of personal protective equipment, which researchers say may be most effective at preventing the spread of droplets from coughs or sneezes.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott issued a mask mandate to help slow the spread of COVID-19 on July 2. The mandate requires “all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions,” the governor’s office said in a release.
Researchers at Florida Atlantic University published a study that said off-the-shelf cone style masks and well-fitted homemade masks, with multiple layers of fabric, proved to be most effective in reducing the number of droplets dispersed to mannequins wearing a variety of facial coverings.
The group also found that loosely folded face masks and bandana-style coverings reduced the distance traveled by droplets by a factor of 1/8 - 1/2, compared to an uncovered cough.
Mannequins that did not wear masks during the test were projecting droplets farther than six feet, which is a marker used to denote popular recommendations in social distancing.
The test was done by simulating a cough or sneeze and utilizing a laser to detect droplets. Mannequins wore a variety of masks and then simulated a cough or sneeze. From there, the team was able to map the paths of the droplets and examine designs of materials.
In an interview with AIP Publishing, Siddhartha Verma said that while face coverings are not perfect, they can be proven to be effective when used in a combination of other recommendations from health care officials.
“It is also important to understand that face-coverings are not a 100% effective in blocking respiratory pathogens,” Verma said in the interview. “This is why it is imperative that we use a combination of social distancing, face coverings, hand-washing and other recommendations from health care officials until an effective vaccine is released.”
Verma said the group looks to continue studying the complex relationship between droplets, evaporations, ambient airflow and respiratory fluid properties when forced out of the body and onto a subject.