Study: Neck gaiter worse than not wearing mask. Here’s why

Walt Disney World does not allow neck gaiters in park

A protester wears a face mask amid the Coronavirus in front of Israel's Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, Thursday, July 16, 2020. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem to protest against corruption and vent their anger at the economic downtown. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) (Ariel Schalit, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

One popular face-covering used during the coronavirus pandemic may not be keeping you safe and healthy at all, experts say.

According to health experts, neck gaiters could even spread the virus further than not wearing a covering at all.

Researchers from Duke University found that the neck gaiter they tested was “worse than nothing.”

“The neck gaiter that we tested did essentially nothing, and worse than nothing, because it appeared to make large droplets into small droplets,” Isaac Henrion, the study’s co-author, told CBS News.

Neck gaiters are made of a circular piece of fabric that sits around a person’s neck. It can then be pulled up to cover a person’s mouth and nose.

The problem does not come from its design, but the fabric it is typically made from.

Neck gaiters are generally made of thin, stretchy polyester, making them comfortable and breathable.

“Instead of stopping droplets that can contain the virus from escaping into the air, the fabric appeared to turn large droplets into smaller ones known as aerosols,” Henrion said.

Aerosols are droplets that can be produced when people cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets, however, never fall to the ground in the same way larger, visible droplets do.

“And so when (aerosols are) released by someone who’s infected, doesn’t know it, and is talking in a room, they can just build up in a room over time and whoever’s in that room can inhale those and become infected,” Kimberly Prather, an expert on aerosols, told CBS News.

According to officials, N95 and standard surgical masks release the least amount of droplets, stopping 90-95% of airborne droplets.

Health experts say if a neck gaiter was made with two layers of cotton, it could be more effective.

Walt Disney World banned neck gaiters last month, saying guests will be required to wear a mask with ear loops or ties.

RELATED: Know before you go: Disney to require face masks with ear loops or ties for park entry

According to the Disney website, “At this time, based on guidance from health authorities, neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandanas, and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable face coverings.”

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