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Low-cost measurement of facemask efficacy for filtering expelled droplets during speech

By Emma P Fischer, Martin C Fischer, David Grass, Isaac Henrion, Warren S Warren, Eric Westman

Posted 22 Jun 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.19.20132969

Mandates for mask use in public during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, worsened by global shortage of commercial supplies, have led to widespread use of homemade masks and mask alternatives. It is assumed that wearing such masks reduces the likelihood for an infected person to spread the disease, but many of these mask designs have not been tested in practice. We have applied a simple optical measurement method to evaluate the efficacy of masks to reduce the transmission of respiratory droplets during regular speech. We compare a variety of commonly available mask types and observe that some mask types approach the performance of standard surgical masks, while some mask alternatives, such as neck fleece or bandanas, offer very little protection. Our measurement setup is inexpensive and can be built and operated by non-experts, allowing for rapid evaluation of mask performance during speech, sneezing, or coughing.

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