Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Gaiter Controversy In Today's Straits Times Article

ST 290820
I read with interest earlier last week regarding the dispute between an SBS bus driver and his refusal to allow a passenger who was wearing a gaiter. The bus driver obviously felt that gaiters are not masks.
ST 240820 on page B9
A gaiter is a tube of fabric worn around the neck to keep skiers or runners warm in cold weather. They are currently popular with runners, cyclists etc in other countries because they can be pulled up to cover the nose and mouth and used as a mask.
Then in today's Straits Times (page A10, under Top of the news), the writer questioned if all masks are created equal when it comes to protection from Covid-19.

The author quoted a study (listed in my reference list) from Duke University that looked at all different kinds of face masks and measured how many droplets of saliva made it through each mask.

When the neck gaiter was tested, they found more droplets than if the person was wearing no mask or other face covering. This single layer neck gaiter was made of 92 percent polyester and 8 percent spandex.

She wrote that the researchers said the neck gaiter "seemed to disperse the largest droplets into a multitude of smaller droplets which explains the apparent increase in droplet count relative to no mask in that case".

What the Straits Times writer did not mention was that the Duke University study was done with just one person. Yes, you read correctly. N = 1. More like a case study really. Next, the way the researchers did measurements was with a phone camera and lasers. Surely, that's not a reliable way to measure particles of droplets.

I'm not sure if the Straits Times writer  even read the article. Even the authors of the Duke University study said that people are "drawing too much" from the article. The authors' intent was not to say this mask does not work or never use gaiters. That's not even the main part of the article.

If you search further, you will find that researchers from Virginia Tech did a neck gaiter study and found that gaiters "perform similarly to cloth masks and very well if doubled over." You can see the PDF document by authors Jin Pan and Linsey Marr on neck gaiters right here.


Fischer EP, Fischer MC, Grass D et al (2020). Low-cost Measurement Of Facemask Efficacy For Filtering Expelled Droplets During Speech. Sci Advances. DOIL 10.1126/sciadvabd3083. Read the article here.

Images when I googled "neck gaiter" above.

*As reported by another journalist in today's Sunday Times (page A2, Top of the news), MOH has since reiterated that makeshift face coverings such as bandanas, scarves and neck gaiters should not be used. This is under recommendations of the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic.

Again the Duke University case study was quoted. Again I'm wondering if the journalist even bothered to read the study itself ......
ST 300820 on page A2

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