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This Popular Face Covering May Be Worse Than Not Wearing a Mask, Study Finds


A neck gaiter, or the long, scarf-like face coverings that can be worn around your neck and then pulled up to cover your face, are popular choice when it comes to picking a mask. Runners especially like them because they tend to be more lightweight and breathable while out for a jog. Unfortunately, a new study claims that’s also why they don’t actually work all that well — and could be even worse than going without a mask at all.

Researchers from Duke University published their findings after testing out 14 different types of face coverings. “These neck gaiters are extremely common in a lot of places because they’re very convenient to wear,” study co-author Warren S. Warren said. “But the exact reason why they’re so convenient, which is that they don’t restrict air, is the reason why they’re not doing much of a job helping people.”

You can see a video below demonstrating how they tested each mask and hear more about how they came to their conclusions:

Basically, larger droplets get dispersed through neck gaiter masks and become smaller ones that can travel easier through the air makes. This makes them more prone to spreading germs than going mask-less.

Unsurprisingly, N95 masks were found to be the most effective at keeping COVID-19 and other germs from spreading. Regular cotton masks and disposable surgical masks also ranked high.

It’s important to note that this was a fairly small study and that some neck gaiter masks might be made from sturdier material than the ones used in their tests. Warren offers a simple guide for checking how well your masks are really working: “If you can see through it when you put it up to a light and you can blow through it easily, it probably is not protecting anybody.”

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