In the cold weather, can scarves replace a facemask to slow the spread of COVID-19?

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A visitor wearing a mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19 passes a sign requiring masks, Tuesday, July 7, 2020, in San Antonio. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared masks or face coverings must be worn in public across most of the state as local officials across the state say their hospitals are becoming increasingly stretched and are in danger of becoming overrun as cases of the coronavirus surge. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – As the cold weather has settled in along the Wasatch Front, face coverings for Utahns are the norm. Scarfs, balaclavas, and neck gaiters aren’t anything new for Utahns. But, when it comes to COVID-19, do they actually work to slow the spread? Some people are substituting their normal face mask for a scarf or other items during these cold months…but what type of face covering is the best to slow the spread of COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, the best type of facemask to help combat COVID is a mask that has two layers of washable, breathable fabric. The mask needs to completely cover your nose and mouth and needs to fit snugly against the sides of your face in order to be most effective in slowing the spread of COVID.

Courtesy of the CDC website

The CDC says that if you choose to wear a neck gaiter, it needs to have two layers or the wearer needs to fold it so it has two layers covering the nose and mouth.

According to the CDC, scarves, ski masks, and balaclavas are not substitutes for masks. So, if you are out and about in the cold weather, you still need to wear a regular face mask in addition to your scarf or other cold-weather gear.

Several studies have shown that face masks are indeed the best way to combat COVID and that other things such as gaiters and scarfs aren’t as effective–but are better than nothing.

According to a study from Duke University, the University of Chicago, and others, some of the best types of masks to filter large droplets are 1) N95 masks, 2) two-layer cotton masks, and 3) surgical masks. In the study, a scarf and a bandana were rated as the least effective type of face covering and should only be worn as a ‘last resort’.

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