Mask-wearing: What local experts have to say about mandates and neck gaiters

Local Coronavirus Coverage

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Two major studies have recently shown the efficacy of mask-wearing and mask mandates. Local health experts largely agreed on one finding from said studies: wearing a face-covering is the right thing to do.

Duke University conducted a study looking at 14 different types of commonly-worn face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found that some homemade masks are just about as effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19 as some surgical masks, however, some other commonly-worn face coverings such as neck gaiters made of fleece material could be worse than not wearing a mask at all.

“This is not the first study that’s been done looking at different types of masks, I think what caught people’s attention with this particular article was the question about the gaiters and the fleece material,” said ETSU Dean of College of Public Health Dr. Randy Wykoff. “Generally speaking, most studies have suggested that wearing a mask is a good idea, it reduces the risk of spread if you have the virus, it reduces the risk of you getting the virus.”

As the Duke Health study indicated, surgical masks were generally better, with homemade masks proving to be better than the neck gaiters.

“We’ve known for some time that what you might call the ‘better masks’ are better, you know, the N-95s and the surgical masks are better but this study actually shows that many of the homemade masks – the cotton ones, the double layers along with polypropylene – they all do a pretty good job,” Wykoff added. “First of all, wear it, that’s number one; number two is the material that it’s made of – that’s what this article addresses, another is the fit and the size. Obviously, if the mask doesn’t fit snuggly in those areas, it can go around.”

“Intellectually, it makes sense that some material is better than none. What they hypothesize in this article is that a really really thin material may take large droplets and turn them into smaller droplets, which increases the amount of droplets, and the amount of time they’re in the air,” he added. “Like with so many things, there needs to be further research on this but for the moment, the good news is that most other types of masks they tested actually did pretty well.”

According to a Vanderbilt report released Monday, there’s a definite relationship between masking requirements and growth in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Tennessee.

Photo Credit: Emma Fischer, Duke University.

“We find evidence that, in areas where masking requirements have been implemented, hospitalizations for COVID-19 have been stable or declined compared to areas where there are no such requirements,” the study indicated.

Photo Credit: Vanderbilt University

At the Ballad Health COVID-19 media briefing Wednesday, Chief Physician Executive Dr. Clay Runnels said that he applauds local leaders for setting mask mandates and added that their communities are proud of them.

He added that he hadn’t had the chance to take an in-depth look at the Vanderbilt report, but had some observations to share nonetheless.

Photo Credit: Vanderbilt University

“As we dig into it, I think what you’re going to find is that those mandates have helped protect our communities around here and to the extent that people have complied with them,” Runnels said.

Regardless, health experts all agree on one thing: wear a mask.

“It’s important for folks to understand, the biggest weakness with masks is that people aren’t wearing them,” Dr. Wykoff said.

Follow News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais on Twitter and Facebook.

Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

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