One Face Covering to Avoid, According to Science

A new study says its effectiveness pales in comparison to face masks and neck gaiters.

women wear mask and face shield to protect themselves
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Even with some pretty cool recent innovations, wearing a face mask or neck gaiter can get old, which may have you considering alternative COVID-19 preventive measures. According to a new CDC study, however, those options remain far superior to face shields.

Using a cough aerosol simulator to expel small aerosol particles into different face coverings, researchers found that N95 respirators, procedure masks, cloth masks and neck gaiters all effectively reduced emissions. Face shields, however, did not.

In terms of hard data, on average, the N95 respirator blocked 99 percent of the aerosol, the procedure mask stopped 59 percent and the cloth face mask blocked 51 percent. Worn as a single layer, the neck gaiter stopped 47 percent; worn as a double layer, it blocked 60 percent. The face shield stopped a whopping… two percent.

It's worth noting that there are no scientifically significant differences between the blocking powers of the procedure mask, cloth face mask and neck gaiter — and that all are much more effective than a face shield.

Granted, this study appeared in medRxiv, which publishes preliminary scientific reports that have not yet been peer reviewed. Still, these numbers are damning enough that you probably shouldn't rock a face shield anytime soon.

Read more of GP's face mask coverage here.


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