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To wear or not to wear: Diving into the mask debate

Results of mask vs no mask experiments
Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 6:06 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - To wear or not to wear, that is the question surrounding masks across the country as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. Everyone seems to be on the same page when it comes to wanting the coronavirus to go away, yet it seems many are on a completely different chapter when it comes to methods of getting rid of it.

“They’re not something that we’re accustomed to,” says SwedishAmerican Microbiologist lab supervisor Cheryl Rose. “It just takes time so it can be part of your daily habit.”

The state of Illinois mandated masks more than two months ago. It requires face coverings in public places, or when social distancing is not possible. When it went into play, it set off a firestorm.

Many people don’t want to wear them for health reasons, and even political reasons. Others say wearing them is crucial to stop the spread.

“Seeing is believing,” says Rose. So the 23 News I-Team went to see for themselves. Medical lab scientists at SwedishAmerican and the news team used several different types of petri dishes for an experiment. They talked, coughed and sneezed both with a mask on and without one.

“This will show, do wearing masks help, or do they not make a difference,” explains Rose.

After being in an incubator for two days it was time to see the results.

“What you’re seeing on the plates that is growing is going to be your normal respiratory flora,” says lab scientist David Setiawan. “I’m actually pretty amazed that there’s really nothing growing on the plates where you used the mask.”

There is a plethora of normal bacteria growth on the petri dishes without mask use, but the dishes with a mask showed nothing.

“No one can see what’s in the droplets,” says Rose. “You didn’t know that this was going to grow when you sneezed or coughed. Because we can’t see it it’s hard to make it tangible. If you see something like this you go ‘oh, okay.’”

So to wear, or not to wear?

“I wouldn’t make anyone do anything they absolutely don’t want to,” says Rose. “But I hope they don’t get sick or make somebody else sick. It’s a chance that you take, and you just hope it works out. [But] if it protects you and other people it’s worth going that extra step.”

View results below.

This image is the results of sneezing with and without a mask. The dish on the top shows a sneeze without a mask on, the bottom dish is with a mask.
This image is the results of sneezing with and without a mask. The dish on the top shows a sneeze without a mask on, the bottom dish is with a mask.(Courtney Sisk)
Reading the exact same script out loud for one minute resulted in these findings. The dish on the right is with wearing a mask. The one on the left is without wearing one.
Reading the exact same script out loud for one minute resulted in these findings. The dish on the right is with wearing a mask. The one on the left is without wearing one.(Courtney Sisk)

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