Textile Masks and Surface Covers-A Spray Simulation Method and a "Universal Droplet Reduction Model" Against Respiratory Pandemics

Front Med (Lausanne). 2020 May 27;7:260. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2020.00260. eCollection 2020.


The main form of COVID-19 transmission is via "oral-respiratory droplet contamination" (droplet: very small drop of liquid) produced when individuals talk, sneeze, or cough. In hospitals, health-care workers wear facemasks as a minimum medical "droplet precaution" to protect themselves. Due to the shortage of masks during the pandemic, priority is given to hospitals for their distribution. As a result, the availability/use of medical masks is discouraged for the public. However, for asymptomatic individuals, not wearing masks in public could easily cause the spread of COVID-19. The prevention of "environmental droplet contamination" (EnvDC) from coughing/sneezing/speech is fundamental to reducing transmission. As an immediate solution to promote "public droplet safety," we assessed household textiles to quantify their potential as effective environmental droplet barriers (EDBs). The synchronized implementation of a universal "community droplet reduction solution" is discussed as a model against COVID-19. Using a bacterial-suspension spray simulation model of droplet ejection (mimicking a sneeze), we quantified the extent by which widely available clothing fabrics reduce the dispersion of droplets onto surfaces within 1.8 m, the minimum distance recommended for COVID-19 "social distancing." All textiles reduced the number of droplets reaching surfaces, restricting their dispersion to <30 cm, when used as single layers. When used as double-layers, textiles were as effective as medical mask/surgical-cloth materials, reducing droplet dispersion to <10 cm, and the area of circumferential contamination to ~0.3%. The synchronized implementation of EDBs as a "community droplet reduction solution" (i.e., face covers/scarfs/masks and surface covers) will reduce COVID-19 EnvDC and thus the risk of transmitting/acquiring COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-Cov-2; cloth masks; coronavirus; public droplet safety; respiratory pandemic; spray simulation model; textiles.