Study finds cloth masks, fit make difference against COVID-19

It might be time to upgrade your face masks. A study from Virginia Tech found that the type of cloth material used to make a mask matters for protecting against the spread of COVID-19.

Scientists know wearing a face mask works, but researchers wanted to know how well the material and fit measures for effectiveness. The study looked at 11 types of masks, from microfiber and a 200 thread count piece of cotton to bandanas and face shields.

There were some clear losers.

When compared against a surgical mask, a face shield was the least effective, and the method of tying a bandana around your head was not much better.

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“There are some differences and some of them are important but, I have to say, the best face covering is the one you actually wear,” said Dr. Marissa Levine of University of South Florida Health. “We’ve also learned that single layer coverings, loose type coverings, knitting where there’s lots of open spaces, bandanas, single layer bandanas, they just don’t work as well.”

Dr. Levine said the study backs up the importance of layers.

On a microscopic level, researchers found tightly-woven materials, such as microfiber, work.

“Double layer at least, triple-layered is even better. And if you find yourself with a single layer cloth, you can also do something like take a paper towel and put it inside to create a second layer if you need to,” said Levine.

You can also sandwich in a third layer, like a clean vacuum bag or coffee filter, to boost your mask's effectiveness.

But most of all, researchers said to beware of gaps between your mask and your face.

“They also emphasized that fit mattered. So, I think that’s just more evidence that you need to be careful about how it lays on your face because that matters,” said Levine.

Public health leaders said to make sure you check your face masks for any tears or fraying and wash them regularly.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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