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Here’s why your coronavirus face mask might be doing more harm than good

Published Sep 30th, 2020 5:02PM EDT
Face Mask Coronavirus
Image: Viesturs/Adobe

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  • Nearly two dozen states are currently seeing a surge in new coronavirus infections.
  • While masks do a great job when it comes to preventing the coronavirus from spreading, a recent study found that homemade cloth coverings do not provide a sufficient level of protection.

It’s no secret that wearing a mask is an incredibly effective way to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further. What’s more, numerous studies have shown that when two people are wearing masks, the odds of the coronavirus jumping from one person to another is remarkably low. If anything, one of the reasons the U.S. is still struggling to keep the coronavirus at bay is that many people still refuse to wear masks when in close proximity to one another. Case in point: two coronavirus deaths and dozens of coronavirus infections were recently traced back to a karaoke party in Florida where people weren’t wearing masks.

CDC director Robert Redfield recently went so far as to say that mask-wearing is more effective at combating the coronavirus than a vaccine would be. Of course, it doesn’t help that the first incarnation of a vaccine might only be 50% effective.

“We have clear scientific evidence they work,” Redfield said while talking about the efficacy of masks during a Senate hearing recently. “This face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID19 than when I take a COVID vaccine.”

All that said, there is a big caveat to Redfield’s statement and the efficacy of masks in general. Namely, not all masks are created equal to the extent that some mask types might not offer up as much protection as you might think.

To this point, researchers at the University of California conducted a study which shows that homemade cloth face coverings — which became quite popular over the past few months — are not effective when it comes to reducing aerosolized particles while breathing and talking.

MedicalXpress reports:

In all the test scenarios, surgical and N95 masks blocked as much as 90 percent of particles, compared to not wearing a mask. Face coverings also reduced airborne particles from the superemitter.

Homemade cotton masks actually produced more particles than not wearing a mask. These appeared to be tiny fibers released from the fabric. Because the cotton masks produced particles themselves, it’s difficult to tell if they also blocked exhaled particles. They did seem to at least reduce the number of larger particles.

Suffice it to say, if you’re going to go to the trouble of wearing a mask, make sure it’s a mask that’s proven to be effective. And while N95 masks can be hard to come by, picking up a 10-pack of surgical masks at stores like Target is more than doable.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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