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New study looks at which face coverings are most effective and which to avoid

The research has many parents with kids heading back to school questioning what to send them with to keep them safe from COVID-19.

YORK, Pa. — All face coverings are not created equal.  

That`s what researchers at Duke University say they discovered during a recent study.  

The team tested 14 face coverings to see which best contained droplets that are spread when we speak.  

At the top of the list was the fitted N95 mask. At the bottom? A neck gaiter, reportedly because of the size droplets it let through.

"The larger saliva droplets are broken down into smaller ones that actually get through the neck gaiters and neck fleeces, potentially allowing you to spread COVID-19," said Health & Wellness expert Dr. David Geier.  The smaller particles hung around longer and therefore got carried away in the air easier. Because of that,  the study concluded neck wraps should be a last option. In fact, they say it could even do more harm than good.

"That`s a huge bummer because I know my kids were loving them," said Laurie Miller Petersen.  The mother of 3 active boys says they hate masks but didn't mind wearing the neck coverings.  "They were easy to put on, they didn't have to take them on and off, they could just pull them up and down, Petersen said." 

The study, though, now has her rethinking what she will send her kids to school with to stay safe.  Others are questioning the validity of the study, saying only 1 neck gaiter was tested and that not all fabric is the same.

We asked the PA department of health for their guidance.  They wouldn't comment on this specific study or the effectiveness of neck wraps, but they did send us this, writing in part, quote: "Face covering means a covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears or is wrapped around the lower face.  Face coverings may be factory-made, or improvised from household items, including but not limited to, scarves, bandannas, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels."   

Some experts say to take the study with a grain of salt.  Petersen though, says she isn't taking any chances.  "It is what it is, if it`s about safety, then it`s about safety and they just have to do it. - we are all in this kinda weird boat right now," she said.

Several reports state the research team plans to next study how the particles escape from masks, whether they`re coming from gaps around the edges or moving through the fabric. If you want to check out how specifically they did the full study or how well the other masks performed, click here.