Scientific research has proven that masks are one of the most effective tools in stopping the spread of COVID-19

By Maria Pasquini
July 10, 2020 12:49 PM
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Bill Nye
| Credit: Governor Andrew Cuomo/Twitter

Bill Nye is breaking down why it’s so important to wear face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a fun TikTok video from the beloved science educator, Nye, 64, performed a simple experiment which illustrated why “people in the scientific community want you to wear a face mask while out in public.”

“Face masks like this one prevent particles from getting into the air and then into your respiratory system,” Nye said while holding up a surgical mask.

While seated in front of a lit candle, Nye tested out a few face coverings while explaining that “blocking the movement of air is an old trick.”

“Here’s a scarf, it blocks the movement of air around my throat, helps keep me warm,” he continued, holding up a knit scarf. “This scarf won awards in the Washington State Fair for both design and workmanship. It can block the movement of air, but only to a certain extent.”

Nye then proceeded to cover his mouth and nose with the scarf and then attempt to blow out the candle, which he was able to do quickly and easily.

Next, Nye held up a “homemade face mask," — the kind recommended for all Americans in daily life — made out of two layers of cloth and a pipe cleaner to help it fit the bridge of his nose.

“It blocks the movement of air very effectively,” he said, before trying unsuccessfully to blow out the candle directly in front of him. “If you’re wearing one of these, you’re protecting yourself and those around you.”

Nye also showed how well N95 respirator masks — which should be saved for frontline health care workers due to mass shortages — block out airflow.

No matter the mask, though, Nye emphasized that wearing one is vital to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

"The reason we want you to wear a mask is to protect you, sure. But the main reason why we want you to wear a mask is to protect me, from you, and the particles from your respiratory system, from getting into my respiratory system," he said. "Everybody, this is literally a matter of life or death, and when I say literally, I mean literally! Literally, a matter of life or death! So when you're out in public, please, wear a mask!"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has continually stressed the importance of wearing masks in public — which has been required in New York since April — posted Nye's video on his Twitter account, simply writing, “Listen to Bill Nye.”

Scientific research has proven that masks are one of the most effective tools in stopping the spread of COVID-19. The highly contagious virus can easily infect other people through respiratory droplets from coughs, sneezes or even just talking, if people are standing close together — and especially if they’re indoors.

Despite push-back from some Americans who don’t want to wear a mask, even amid a nationwide surge in new cases, last month, a study found that the risk of coronavirus transmission went down by 85 percent when people wore a mask.

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While a tightly fitted respirator mask is best for protecting a person and anyone around them from spreading COVID-19, a nationwide shortage of those masks means they should be reserved for frontline workers.

However, a group of researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science recently found that sewn, multi-layered masks — like the ones readily available on Etsy and from many clothing brands — were the most effective, followed by cone-style non-sterile masks available at pharmacies. Folded homemade masks and bandanas were less effective, but still did their job in reducing the spread.

Without any mask, the droplets from a cough traveled more than 8 feet — past even the recommended 6 feet for social distancing. A bandana was the least effective mask of the four, reducing the distance to just 3 feet, and the quickly folded mask reduced the distance to 1 foot, 3 inches.

Meanwhile sewn, multi-layered masks were found to reduce respiratory droplets to just 2.5 inches, beating out the cone-style non-sterile masks, which led to 8 inches of spread.

Though the Centers for Disease Control said on April 3 that they recommend Americans wear a face mask whenever they are unable to distance from other people, the Trump administration has refrained from a nationwide mask mandate, leaving the decision up to individual states. Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia require them, and cities and counties within other states have mandated masks.

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