(CBS NEWS) – Cloth face coverings are recommended in public, especially when social distancing cannot be maintained.
Experts say the coverings help prevent people who may have the coronavirus from spreading it to others.
Many of us are making homemade masks to try to protect others around us.
Now new research published in the medical journal Thorax looks at how many layers masks may need to prevent viral droplets from the nose and mouth from being dispersed.
Researchers from the University of New South Wales in Australia used a light system and high-speed camera for the study.
Visualizations showed the airborne droplets produced by healthy people speaking, coughing, and sneezing while wearing no mask, a one layer covering, two-layer covering, and a three-ply surgical mask.
“They showed that two layers is much better than one layer, and one layer is much better than nothing,” says professor Kimberly Prather, a distinguished chair of atmospheric chemistry at UC San Diego.
Professor Prather researches aerosols and says we have to be cautious with these kinds of studies because they may not capture the smallest particles.
“Realize that the teeniest ones, the ones where the infectious virus could be concentrated, they are not seeing those,” she says.
The layers of a face covering may be important but so is fit.
The mask should cover your nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of your face.
“If you don’t have it fitting to your face, things will just leak out, and then they start to not be as effective,” Professor Prather says.
Dr. Prather says it’s easy to tell if your mask fits right.
You should be able to feel it sucking back against your nose when you breathe in, and when you blow out it goes back out. That means the air is passing through the mask, which is essential.
Kate Barton never leaves home without her cloth face mask. She says it’s important, “just to be a good neighbor, you know just kinda look out for people and also to protect my family and my kids,” she says.
Experts also emphasize that masks are just one barrier and that we still need to wash hands, keep social distance, and avoid crowded indoor spaces to limit the spread of the virus.