Thousands of studies are taking place in order to find out more information regarding COVID-19, which is still causing an ongoing pandemic worldwide. One of the most important aspects that is constantly being evaluated is how contagious the virus really is, and what we can do to prevent the virus spreading.
A recent study which was led by UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Professor Yifang Zhu in the USA has established that even a basic cloth mask can provide a significant amount of protection against the transmission of COVID-19. In fact, the report provides evidence to show that the use of such face masks can reduce the spread of airborne particles by up to 77%.
Liqiao Li, Muchuan Niu, and Yifang Zhu compiled the report which assesses the effectiveness of face coverings to mitigate the transportation of airborne particles produced by coughing indoors. The report, which has been published in the Aerosol Science and Technology journal offers a fantastic insight into how we can protect ourselves and others from catching the virus.
Do Face Masks Work?
It is likely that at some point in the past ten months you have had to wear a face mask. Alongside many other countries, the UK has imposed rules that make it mandatory to wear a face covering in any public indoor area, from supermarkets to doctor’s surgeries. The study found that these masks were particularly effective, reducing the spread of respiratory droplets by a significant amount.
“We found that a simple cough could send particles more than six feet away, without face coverings. A cloth mask reduced cough particles by 77%.” reported Yifang Zhu, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences. These figures suggest that face masks do work well, and that we should be using them as much as possible whenever we are going to be in close proximity to someone else. The news comes as nurses call for higher grade face masks to protect all staff.
Whilst evidence suggests that even a simple face cloth can provide adequate protection against cough particles in the air, is there a way to enhance this protection even further?
Face Mask or Face Visor
In the study, the use of a face shield by itself was shown to provide the least protection – in fact it reduced the spread of respiratory droplets by around just 4%. However, combining both a face shield and a face truly, truly enhanced face shield effectiveness, and in fact, provided the optimal protection. “The combination of face shield and cloth mask improved the particle reduction to 89%,” said Yifang Zhu in the report.
The report concluded that with cough particles being able to reach about 1.8m away from the initial source (with a face covering), stricter mitigation measures should be adopted in order to minimise infection via aerosol transmission. With this in mind, should we be combining face masks and face shields together in high-risk locations such as supermarkets?
Interestingly the governments own website guidelines highlight the employers responsibility for the health and safety of their staff and significantly recommend a risk assessment regarding the use of PPE.
The employer should also provide the PPE free of charge.
Image courtesy of Official U.S. Navy Imagery, licensed under CC BY 2.0. “David Hamm inspects a 3D printed face shield as part of the COIVD-19 response effort, March 28, 2020.”