COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Health officials, government officials and the public have debated how effective face coverings are against COVID-19 since the pandemic started.
ABC 17'S Brittany Wiley took an in-depth look at the science behind how they work.
She sat at her dining room table with a standard pillar candle, a surgical mask, factory-made cloth mask and homemade cloth mask.
Without a face covering, the candle was easily blown out. Once face coverings got involved, not only did her expiration get more forceful, but the flame didn't move.
Dr. Robin Blount, chief medical officer with Boone Hospital Center, said the demonstration showed how the mask acts as a barrier.
“It's really just a barrier to the airflow in your candle demonstration. When we're really talking about the potential spread of the virus we're talking about a barrier to droplets," Blount said.
Blount said when someone coughs or sneezes, droplets carrying viruses can't travel very far because they get caught in the mask.
“If everyone were to wear a mask, our chances of transmission are markedly diminished," Blount said.
A CDC news release detailed the efficiency of face coverings at a Springfield, Mo. hair salon after two employees tested positive for the virus.
Investigators found that none of the stylists’ 139 clients or secondary contacts contracted coronavirus and all 67 clients who volunteered to be tested showed no sign of infection because the salon had a mask policy.
Blount said any face-covering makes a difference in preventing the spread of novel coronavirus, but there are some benefits and drawbacks to the different types.
“The standard hospital isolation mask is better constructed to protect against these things than a standard cloth mask, but a cloth mask for run of the mill interactions in a hallway or in a grocery store is absolutely fine," she said.
“But you're starting to see people with these valved face masks and that will allow things to go in and out," she said. "I think kind of a false comfort to people that are wearing those because they are not as safe really as a good, solid mask.”
At the start of the pandemic, health officials said masks were only necessary for anyone with the virus or who was caring for someone with the COVID-19.
Blount said it's common for ideas like that to change as officials get more experience with viruses.
“Sometimes what was once said might be a good idea or not necessary, as we do more tests, as we do more experiments, as we get more experience with the virus, we move forward we learn from that."