Yes, I am posting this one twice – it is that important.
In the early summer of 2020, as the world went into lockdown during the early days of the SARS CoV-2 (Corovavirus/COVID-19) global pandemic – I noticed many individuals declining to wear masks stating personal reasons and evidence-lacking “reasoning” as to why they would not comply with the recommendations of infectious disease experts all over the planet.
I also noticed several stories of different scientists testing masks to show how they were effective in reducing the spread of respiratory droplets/aerosols between people therby reducing the spread of the potentially deadly virus (as well as far less deadly but yet still annoying viruses such as the common cold).
I decided to perform a similar mask test for my students in my science education classes.
To do this I acquired some Petri dishes (from an Amazon supplier), then – with the mask off and a petri dish held at arm’s length – I coughed, sneezed, sang, and yelled at the open dishes. I then put on a two-layer cotton face mask and repeated the demonstration using a new petri dish. I labeled the dishes and let them incubate for a few days in a warm area – I did not have an incubator at the time but it was June so it was warm in the classroom, therefore – growth happened…LOTS of growth, far more than I expected…it was really gross and it smelled really funky.
The odd thing was that, while the dish that was exposed to my respiratory droplets/aerosols without a mask did in fact have more colonies of growth – so did the plate I had coughed on while wearing a mask. At first, it appeared that the mask did little to stop the spread of respiratory droplets.
I wrongly assumed the error was in the growth media of the Petri dishes so I acquired some new dishes (Amazon) with the same growth media used by many of the other researchers – 5% sheep’s blood – and I repeated the demonstration. This time I also added a table and placed several dishes out at .3, .9, and 1.5M (1′, 3′, and 6′) in an attempt to show how droplets travel outward from the body.
Again, the results were the same – not much difference between masked and unmasked.
I was perplexed.
I compared my results to the others and came to the only possible conclusion: my samples had been contaminated by the classroom environment. The natural dust and dirt on our feet, bodies, and hair that the students and I bring inside with us from the nearby forest and garden, our sloughed off human skin cells and hair, animal/bird dander (we have several free-range chickens), the fact that the building is an old log cabin. Along with all this fun with particulates – the classroom is host to many different species of reptile, amphibian, fish, arachnid, and sometimes even an Opossum. Then there are the billions of free-floating fungal spores and pollen grains from the forest all around us as well as the occasional wandering house fly or gnat – and all the fun little friends that hitchhike on their feet and faces. All these contaminants and contaminant vectors were, well – everywhere. So, my first two experiments were contaminated by the nature of nature.
What to do? How could I reduce the natural contamination factor of my classroom environment to produce a more un-contaminated result? A room air filter you say? Yes, I already had one of those – a big one. Obviously, it could only do so much.
Since it would be next to impossible to make my classroom free of natural contaminants – the only option was to build a Cleanroom to rule out some of the contamination in the hopes of obtaining a better result – so, that is what I did.
The video below shows the results of my efforts and I hope it serves to demonstrate the how and the why of why masks work and why it is important to wear them during a global pandemic. Watch to the end if you are interested in learning how I built the Cleanroom.
This video is long because I choose to be thorough and transparent. To demonstrate this requires procedure and patience. If you are in a hurry and want to bypass all the “meat” of the video and go directly to my findings – then feel free to do so by skipping ahead to the time index of 39:17
Special Thanks to Hardy Diagnostics for assisting us with this demonstration: http://www.hardydiagnostics.com
More special thanks to my inspirations for this demonstration:
Dr. Rich Davis, the Clinical Microbiology Lab Director at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/other/a-microbiologist-used-a-germ-filled-petri-dish-to-show-how-a- mask-catches-droplets-that-spray-from-your-mouth-when-you-talk-cough-sing-and-sneeze/ar-BB16dT0D On YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIpHCptKZUg&t=39s
Dr. Nwadiuto Esiobu, microbiologist, Florida Atlantic University https://wsvn.com/news/investigations/mask-test-fau-microbiologist-checks-face-coverings-for- protection-against-covid-19/
Lourdes Aguilar of UMC of El Paso, TX: On YouTube: https://youtu.be/Q1YOHTP5IrA
Dr. Joe Hanson of It’s Ok To Be Smart On YouTube: How Well Do Masks Work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Tp0zB904Mc&t=1s COVID-19 & Mask Myths DEBUNKED!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npXP5wqNzaI
My Outdoor Research Mask: https://www.outdoorresearch.com/us/face-mask-kit-283298
Even more special thanks to Matt Piper for graciously allowing the use of his wonderful song: Orbital Horizons Please Support Matt via https://mattpiper.bandcamp.com/music https://www.amazon.com/Orbital-Horizons-Matt-Piper/dp/B07KPPW42K https://open.spotify.com/artist/5SH8bpbRuHtzrwqlE6zZdc
THANK YOU ALL!
My mask protects you, your mask protects me.
Wear your mask.