New UCF study shows how masks reduce COVID spread

Study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases

Kindergarteners wear masks while listening to their teacher amid the COVID-19 pandemic at Washington Elementary School Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, in Lynwood, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) (Marcio Jose Sanchez, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Amid a renewed push to get Americans to wear face coverings, a new study from the University of Central Florida shows how masks reduce the flow of COVID-19 particles, which may help to reduce the need for social distancing.

The study by professors from UCF’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering had a person recite a phrase or cough in front of another person in three groups -- a group with no masks, a group wearing cloth masks and a group wearing three-layer surgical masks.

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The researchers found that wearing the surgical mask reduced the distance coughing and speaking emissions traveled to about half a foot. Wearing a cloth mask reduced those same emissions to about two feet.

A rendering from the UCF study showing how far emissions traveled if the subject spoke or coughed while wearing a surgical mask, a cloth mask, or no face covering. (UCF)

Researchers say the study proves people wearing masks can stand closer without transmitting viral droplets if they are wearing even cloth masks, which would allow for an easing of social distancing rules.

The study, which was funded with a grant from the National Science Foundation, appeared in the Journal of Infectious Diseases on Thursday. Researchers now hope to expand the study to include more participants.

It’s not the only study at UCF that has looked at the benefit of masks in reducing social distancing. A study last year found masks and good ventilation were better at reducing the spread of COVID in classrooms.

Evidence continues to mount that shows the benefit of face coverings in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses. The Biden administration also announced Thursday that it was working on a plan to send face coverings to Americans for free.

About the Author:

Christie Zizo joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.