Virginia Tech researchers release new cloth mask study


BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) – Researchers at Virginia Tech have just released new findings on the protection that cloth masks can provide from exposure to COVID-19.

Virginia Tech’s airborne disease transmission expert Dr. Linsey Marr created a team to start testing cloth masks in March when she says she realized there wasn’t a lot of research out there on them.

“I realized it was going to become important for the general public to wear masks because of asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission,” Marr said.

They tested materials ranging from microfiber cloth to a pillowcase for filtration efficiency, and inward and outward protection.

What makes Virginia Tech’s study different than what’s already out there is it focuses on larger droplets because Marr says that’s what carries the virus. It doesn’t travel ‘naked’.

“Once you get up to that size, these simple materials, even just one layer of them are usually able to block 50 percent or more of those,” Marr said.

An N95 is still considered the gold standard of masks, but Marr says we need to save those for healthcare workers

“Cloth masks fall somewhere in between,” Marr said. “They do help to reduce the amount of virus that’s going to be in the air and reduce the amount that the wearer would breathe in. Anything we can do to reduce that is going to be helpful.”

The team determined from the study that a filter surrounded on both sides with some form of cloth is the recommendation they suggest for having the most effective cloth mask.

“With the cloth mask they’re showing that they actually do something,” Marr said. “They’re not an N95 but they are helpful in reducing your exposure.”

The team says it also found out that cloth masks can be equally as good at protecting you from the virus as reducing your ability to spread it.

Since there still is no tool that is 100% effective against COVID-19, Marr says a combination of distancing, ventilation, masks and handwashing can give you greater than 90% risk reduction.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.



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