Researchers at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces published their research in the scientific journal, “Physics of Fluids” finding that cloth face masks are not enough to stop the spread of COVID-19. It should be noted, however, that according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), COVID-positive patients who get coronavirus have a greater than 99.5% survival rate up to the age of 70, and that number dips to 94.6% for patients over the age of 70.
The researchers studied five types of face coverings, which included N-95 masks, surgical masks, cloth masks, and cloth masks wetted with water. According to the study, “Droplet flow visualization experiments of a simulated face-to-face interaction with a mask in place were conducted using the particle image velocimetry setup.”
The study is the first of its kind to “quantitatively verify” if wearing a mask while having closer than six-feet interactions with others is safe.
According to one source, “Studies have shown that the average infection threshold for COVID-19 is 1,000 virus particles, inhaled either all at once or on separate occasions,” while a single sneeze has the ability to carry up to two million virus particles.
Therefore, “the cloth mask let through more than 1,000 sneeze droplets, each of which could have millions of virus particles.”
Findings from the study concluded that while all masks blocked approximately 95% of droplets originating from coughs and sneezes, a risk still remained of the virus being passed on. However, “[if] the relevant social distancing guidelines are compromised,” then “foreign airborne sneeze and cough droplets could pass through all the masks tested.”
“When the leakage percentages of these airborne droplets were expressed in terms of the number of virus particles, it was found that masks would not offer complete protection to a susceptible person from a viral infection in close (e.g., <6 ft) face-to-face or frontal human interactions,” says the study.
The researchers give multiple suggestions for avoiding the spread of the mostly non-deadly virus, including “wearing multiple layers of masks could offer increased protection,” using wet or N-95 masks, “or turning the face away from the sneeze or cough.”