LUBBOCK, Texas — As cases begin to rise again here in Lubbock and around the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new guidelines. They suggest people should start wearing masks again in areas of high transmission even if they are vaccinated.
Since the start of the pandemic, one professor at Texas Tech has been doing research to see just how effective masks are against COVID-19.
“We are heavily involved in a non-medical countermeasure to fight this virus,” said Seshadri Ramkumar, professor of chemical countermeasures and advanced materials at Texas Tech. “We never thought that a material would be able to save lives.”
He and his graduate student Mirza Khyum have been conducting research to test the effectiveness of masks against small viral particles like COVID-19.
“We found a material that can save the people from this Delta variant and the result is very good and it makes me feel good,” said Khyum.
Through using a machine called a Fractional Efficiency Filter Tester, they can pump simulated viral particles 30 to 150 nanometers in diameter, roughly the same size as the coronavirus, at different types of masks and measure how many of those particles make it through.
Right now, they have found that simple three-ply masks are roughly 80% effective against COVID-19.
“Mask materials are easy to use, but the impact is bigger,” said Khyum.
There has been some concern that the Delta variant spreads a higher volume of infectious particles leaving many to wonder how effective masks are against it.
Ramkumar is confident his research still demonstrates that wearing a mask significantly decreases your chance of infection.
“Scientists claim that this particular strain has more load per given volume, and this can bring that down to your pre-Delta variant level. For that pre-Delta variant level, your vaccine is a perfect solution,” Ramkumar said.
Ramkumar and his team noting that just three layers of material, usually available at a local pharmacy, can make the difference when it comes to fighting COVID-19.
“Of course, we are here not only to protect us but more importantly to protect good people around the earth, and this is one tool. I’m not claiming that this is the tool but, in a toolbox, this is an important tool,” said Ramkumar. “It’s such an unassuming material. It’s saving lives.”