As COVID-19 continues to spread in the United States and beyond, medical experts have been pushing people to wear masks to reduce the spread of the illness through coughing, breathing, sneezing, and talking. But as much as we all want to stay healthy, a lot of people can’t help but wonder if these simple cloth masks really have any kind of impact on such a tiny virus.

For those who need a visual aid, Dr. Richard Davis, who’s a clinical microbiology lab director and holds a PhD., did a little experiment.

First, he asked, “What does a mask do? Blocks respiratory droplets coming from your mouth and throat. Two simple demos: First, I sneezed, sang, talked & coughed toward an agar culture plate with or without a mask. Bacteria colonies show where droplets landed. A mask blocks virtually all of them.”


Not surprisingly, the sneezing shot way more bacteria into the dishes than singing or talking. And as you can see, the dishes that were protected by a mask on Dr. Davis’ face look just a bit different.

For the next part of the experiment, Dr. Davis implemented a bit of social distancing.

“What about keeping your distance? Second demo: I set open bacteria culture plates 2, 4 and 6 feet away and coughed (hard) for ~15s. I repeated this without a mask. As seen by number of bacteria colonies, droplets mostly landed <6 ft, but a mask blocked nearly all of them.”


Dr. Davis acknowledged that his demonstration wasn’t a flawless way to demonstrate the effects of masks during a viral outbreak, but the results certainly serve their purpose.

Remember to wear your masks!


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