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A scientist shows you the gross effects of not wearing a mask

Researcher Rich Davis displayed how easily bacteria could be spread by coughing, talking, sneezing, and more when not wearing a mask in comparison to when you wear one.

A scientist shows you the gross effects of not wearing a mask
Image Source: NewsWithKevin / Twitter

Over the past few weeks, anti-mask rallies have picked up in frequency. As the number of cases in the United States surges, more and more people are coming forward denouncing the usage of masks. Though they may claim it's about "personal freedom," not wearing a mask when outside the home has a serious impact on public health. Even if you're just talking while standing at a "safe" distance from others, there is a risk of spreading the disease if you're an asymptomatic carrier. Using petri dishes and his own respiratory fluids, researcher Rich Davis conducted multiple tests to show you just how dangerous not wearing a mask is.



Davis took to Twitter to share the findings of his study. It soon went viral, but no one is quite sure it has convinced anti-mask Americans to finally make the switch. He shared that he had conducted two simple demonstrations. In the first one, he sneezed, sang, talked, and cough towards an agar culture plate with or without a mask on. Soon, bacteria colonies formed on the agar culture plates. In photos, he displayed that the plates he coughed at without the mask on had way more bacteria colonies than the one he coughed at with the mask on. He thus concluded, "A mask blocks virtually all bacteria colonies."



In the second demonstration, he kept his distance from various agar culture plates while doing the same activities with or without a mask on. Yet again, the plates he coughed at without a mask on were littered with bacteria colonies. While the researcher's droplets mostly landed on plates positioned less than six feet away from him, the mask made a huge difference. Though Davis did note that his simple demos aren't the most accurate way of modeling the spread of the disease or culturing viruses, there was still a lot to take away from his experiments. "Colonies of normal bacteria from my mouth and throat show the spread of respiratory droplets," he shared. "Like the kind we think mostly spread [the virus], and how a mask can block them."



Davis affirmed, "Masks as a political or social litmus test or used to shame those who won't (or disabled folks who truly can't!) wear them is a travesty. We wash hands after using the bathroom and wipe noses on tissues. Masks and face shields need to be just another normalized act of hygiene."

After his experiments went viral, the researcher received many requests to show the difference between various types of masks, such as N95 masks and homemade fabric masks. He argued that while it was possible to perform these experiments with different masks, the results probably wouldn't differ too much.



He isn't the only one advocating for face masks. In a study published earlier this month by a team of researchers led by a Texas A&M University professor, it was found that not wearing a face mask dramatically increases a person's chance of being infected by coronavirus. According to ScienceDaily, they studied the mitigation process in Italy, China and New York City and concluded that "using a face mask reduced the number of infections by more than 78,000 in Italy from April 6-May 9 and by over 66,000 in New York City from April 17-May 9."




"Our study establishes very clearly that using a face mask is not only useful to prevent infected coughing droplets from reaching uninfected persons but is also crucial for these uninfected persons to avoid breathing the minute atmospheric particles (aerosols) that infected people emit when talking and that can remain in the atmosphere tens of minutes and can travel tens of feet" the study's co-author Mario Molina, a professor at the University of California-San Diego, said.

At present, there are over 2.5 million confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the United States. Over 128,000 people have lost their lives to the disease. If wearing a simple mask could protect our communities from succumbing to the illness, then that is a sacrifice that shouldn't be controversial. Davis is the director of the clinical microbiology laboratory at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington.

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