Study Says Popular Face Covering Could Worsen Virus Spread
(Original article available here)
A bad review for versatile coverings called fleeces, buffs or gaiters
A style of face-covering popular among construction workers—the fabric tubes with elastic ends variously called buffs, gaiters or fleeces—could worsen the spread of coronavirus, says a new Duke University study.
Valued for versatility and convenience, the buffs allow workers to drop the covering from their noses and mouths to cool faces, untrap carbon dioxide in exhalations or allow eye protection to defog.
Study authors describe it as a demonstration about how best to measure face-covering effectiveness at low cost. No specific industry use was involved. But the analysis places the buffs dead last in limiting virus spread, contending that the fabric actually breaks down heavier droplets into smaller aerosol micro-drops that may travel farther and float in the air longer than heavier droplets.
That actually makes the covering worse than no face covering at all, the authors conclude.
“We noticed that speaking through some masks (particularly the neck fleece) seemed to disperse the largest droplets into a multitude of smaller droplets, which explains the apparent increase in droplet count relative to no mask in that case,” state the researchers in an article in the journal Science Advances.
“Considering that smaller particles are airborne longer than large droplets (larger droplets sink faster), the use of such a mask might be counterproductive.”
– Duke University researchers, writing in journal Science Advances