A new study suggests that improved masks should be widely used to combat COVID-19 indoors.




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To combat the spread of COVID-19 inside, a recent study emphasizes the necessity for widespread usage of improved face masks as well as the importance of sufficient ventilation.

In their research, engineers from the University of Waterloo employed a mannequin to simulate sitting human breathing in a large room. Despite the use of basic fabric and blue surgical masks, the investigations revealed a considerable buildup of aerosol droplets over time — inhaled droplets so small they remain suspended and spread through the air.

“There is no doubt that wearing any facial covering is good, both for protection in close contact and at a distance in a room,” said Serhiy Yarusevych, the study’s leader and a professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering. “However, when it comes to managing aerosols, there is a significant disparity in the efficiency of different masks.”

“There is no doubt that wearing any facial covering is good, both for protection in close contact and at a distance in a room,” said Serhiy Yarusevych, the study’s leader and a professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering. “However, when it comes to managing aerosols, there is a significant disparity in the efficiency of different masks.”

The remaining aerosols are diverted out the top of the mask, where it fits over the nose, and escape unfiltered into the surrounding air.

Higher-quality, more expensive N95 and KN95 masks, on the other hand, filtered more than half of the exhaled aerosols that can collect indoors and spread the COVID-19 virus if inhaled by others.

The far stronger effectiveness of N95 and KN95 masks over cloth and surgical masks, according to Yarusevych, the chief investigator of the Fluid Mechanics Research Lab, presents a persuasive case that they should be worn as much as possible indoors, such as schools and workplaces.

He stated, “A lot of this may sound like common sense.” “Medical professionals, for example, wear N95 masks for a reason: they work significantly better. The uniqueness here is that we’ve offered hard data and thorough analysis to back up that assertion.”

Experiments also looked at how ventilation systems, which circulate and replace the air in rooms, affect aerosol accumulation. Even low ventilation rates were shown to be as helpful in minimizing the risk of transmission as the best masks.

The findings suggest that high-quality masks and sufficient ventilation should be used in tandem to reduce the harm posed by indoor aerosol accumulation as much as feasible, according to Yarusevych.

The paper is published in the journal Physics of Fluids and is titled Experimental examination of indoor aerosol dispersion and accumulation in the context of COVID-19: Effects of masks and ventilation.

Yarusevych worked alongside Sean Peterson, a mechanical and mechatronics engineering professor at Waterloo, and engineering Ph.D. students Yash Shah and John Kurelek.