Testing the effectiveness of face masks

Published: Jul. 17, 2020 at 7:59 PM CDT
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SILVIS, Ill. (KWQC) - Face masks have become part of our daily life. Genesis Health Systems helped give a new look at how effective they can be, by analyzing the droplets that spread when we interact with others. The experiment included one person talking, sneezing, and laughing with a mask and without a mask while Petri dishes sat on a table in front of them, at one foot, three feet, and six feet distance.

After each action, Petri dishes would be covered with a lid and marked, showing what each dish represented. They would then be stored at 35 degrees centigrade, which is the average body temperature, for 24 hours to develop.

Jennifer Ballard, the Medical Technologist at Genesis Health Systems, shares the results of the experiment and said that talking with one foot of distance without a mask, you can see there is a substantial growth of bacteria. When there was a face mask worn, there was only one colony. At three feet distance when talking with a mask, there was no growth. Without a mask, there were a few colonies. Then when the Petri dish was at six feet distance with a mask, there was no spread. Without a mask, however, there were still droplets that reached six feet and Ballard says “you can still be exposed to somebody’s germs.”

The results were similar while laughing, "with a mask on at one foot, there's no growth on there. Laughing with no mask on at one foot there's a lot of growth on there," explains Ballard.

When Ballard showed the Petri dish one foot away from someone sneezing with a mask on, there was nothing seen on the dish. However, when someone sneezed without a mask, the Petri dish was about 75% full. It was nearly completely covered with bacteria at three feet away as well.

Health officials ask that everyone wear masks when social distancing is not possible. ”It protects you but more importantly, we protect other people in the community and protecting each other. You don’t know who you’re going to come across your day with COVID, influenza, or what other virus during this time. It’s extremely important to keep it on at this time,” shares Lisa Caffery, the Infection Prevention Coordinator.

She goes on to say this test does not test how fast COVID-19 in particular can spread, but that it does show how fast droplets and germs can pass between one person to another, reminding us how important it is to wear a mask.

The CDC recently called on Americans to wear masks in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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