Masks could allow for shortened social distancing guidelines

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The Journal of Infectious Diseases on Wednesday published a study by researchers at the University of Central Florida that found that face masks could reduce the distance as COVID-19 spreads by more than half the distance. UCF researchers have found that standing three feet apart with a mask is safer than social distancing six feet away without one. Results are based on experiments with 14 participants. Each volunteer recited a sentence and simulated a cough with and without a mask. A machine measured the distance the droplets and aerosols traveled. “We found that the CDC guidelines, the recommendation of a social distancing of six feet could be greater than three feet or even two or a foot provided masks are worn,” said the co-author of the study, Bernhard Stiehl. “It’s a really big deal because the CDC keeps revising the guidelines. Normally, Stiehl and his team work on research geared towards aerospace engineering. But they have been able to put their expertise in combustion and propulsion at the service of the infectious disease sector. “A lot of the instrumental techniques that we’ve used and developed here in the lab can actually be transferred to COVID research,” Stiehl said. The researchers also discovered key findings about the actual masks people wear. Stiehl said that with a cloth mask, evidence has shown that a two-foot distance is safe due to the reduced spread of spray. With a surgical mask on, he said one foot was safe. And with either the KN95s or the N95s, Stiehl said the evidence shows that distance is hardly required. The work doesn’t stop there. The researchers said they would expand the study to more participants.

On Wednesday, the Journal of Infectious Diseases published a to study of researchers at the University of Central Florida who found that face masks could reduce the distance from the spread of COVID-19 by more than half the distance.

UCF researchers have found that standing three feet apart with a mask is safer than social distancing six feet away without one.

Results are based on experiments with 14 participants. Each volunteer recited a sentence and simulated a cough with and without a mask. A machine measured the distance the droplets and aerosols traveled.

“We found that the CDC guidelines, the recommendation of a social distancing of six feet could be greater than three feet or even two or a foot provided masks are worn,” said the co-author of the study, Bernhard Stiehl. “This is a very big deal because the CDC continues to revise the guidelines.”

Normally, Stiehl and his team work on research geared towards aerospace engineering. But they have been able to put their expertise in combustion and propulsion at the service of the infectious disease sector.

“A lot of the instrumental techniques that we’ve used and developed here in the lab can actually be transferred to COVID research,” Stiehl said.

The researchers also discovered key findings about the actual masks people wear. Stiehl said that with a cloth mask, evidence has shown that a two-foot distance is safe due to the reduced spread of spray. With a surgical mask on, he said one foot was safe. And with either the KN95s or the N95s, Stiehl said the evidence shows that distance is hardly required.

The work doesn’t stop there. The researchers said they would expand the study to more participants.

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