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Florida Atlantic University scientist tests effectiveness of face coverings

Experiment looked at N95, cotton mask, and face gaiter
Posted at 2:29 PM, Jul 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-13 14:00:47-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Wearing a face covering to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus has become a heated issue.

Palm Beach County recently made national headlines after residents protested at a county commission meeting the decision to mandate masks in public.

Many critics argue masks don’t do anything to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but health experts said masks are one of the few things that can help reduce the number of COVID-19 cases.

To get some clarity on the issue, WPTV tested to see if masks can indeed help prevent the spread of germs when you cough.

The biology department at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton helped our news test three different types of masks: an N95, a cotton mask, and a face gaiter.

In a safe and controlled environment, Dr. Nwadiuta Esiobu helped test the effectiveness of the face coverings.

"Our mouths are full of bacteria," Esiobu said. "There are about 700 species of bacteria."

Wearing a mask is supposed to keep that bacteria from getting out.

There are also dozens of types of masks available, but WPTV looked at three of the most popular.

During the experiment, three people coughed five times on separate Petri dishes while wearing a mask. To make the coughs as consistent as possible, the dishes were kept six inches from each person's face. On the last cough, each person held the Petri dish close to their face and coughed into it without wearing a mask.

Dr. Esiobu predicts the dishes coughed on while wearing a mask will have little to no bacteria, but she looks forward to seeing the results for all three masks.

"For the cloth and the gaiter, I am just curious," Esiobu said.

The masks will sit in an incubator over the weekend, growing any bacteria picked up through our coughs. Esiobo will have the results on Monday.

"We can compute the efficiently of each mask in filtering when we get the results," Esiobu said.