Gaitergate Part II

Gaitergate Part II
Gaitergate
Wait! Don’t throw away that neck gaiter just yet. Like most everything in the whirlwind world of COVID research, new findings debunk that Buffs are bogus when it comes to fighting off coronavirus.
Last week, the Washington Post published a report from Duke University that found Buffs and similar fabric tubes did nothing to stop the spread of germs, and in fact made thing worse by splicing big droplets into tinier ones.
But that was so last week. This week, aerosol researchers agree the Buff claims are bunk, saying they can protect just as well as other cloth masks. A number of variables could explain the unusual results in the Duke study, such as the volume of the mask wearer’s voice and whether it had become moist. (Warning: “moist” is the first in the squirm-worthy terminology.)

“The statistics of one don’t tell you very much,” Richard C. Flagan, an aerosol scientist at California Institute of Technology told the New York Times. “Did he have more mucus on his vocal cords? What might have caused the difference? You really don’t know from a single test.”

Experts also dispute the droplet magnification theory. “The fabrics are not acting as a sharp sieve,” Linsey Marr, a professor at Virginia Tech and one of the world’s leading authorities on aerosols, told the Times. “That’s not how filtration works.”

To prove her point, Marr conducted her own research, testing gaiters worn on Styrofoam heads (think wig salon) to better simulate a real-world situation. Two types of gaiters were tested: a single-layer made of 100 percent polyester, and a two-layer gaiter, made with 87 percent polyester and 13 percent Lycra. Researchers used a salt solution and nebulizer to simulate saliva and expelled particles via a tube through the mouth and nose of the foam head. They then measured the quantity and size of the droplets that were able to sneak through masks.

Both gaiters prevented 100 percent of large droplets and 50 percent of medium droplets from splattering another foam head about a foot away. The single layer blocked only 10 percent of small particles, while the two-layer blocked 20 percent. Notably, when the single-layer gaiter was doubled, it blocked more than 90 percent of all particles. By comparison, a homemade cotton T-shirt blocked about 40 percent of the smallest particles.

To further cloud the air, the Virginia Tech study showed while some homemade masks performed better than the gaiters, some fared worse. The one universal takeaway: when it comes to any fabric mask, two layers are better than one, and snug-fitting masks with no gaps are best. And any face covering, combined with social distancing, offers adequate protection for the average person against spreading or contracting the coronavirus.

For their part, the Duke authors said their data had been misconstrued. “Our intent was not to say this mask doesn’t work, or never use neck gaiters,” Martin Fischer, an associate research professor in the department of chemistry at Duke and a co-author of the study, told the Times. “This was not the main part of the paper.”
 

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