N95? Gaiter? Bandana, or blue surgical mask? Which one do you wear? Pandemic researchers, looking to shed light on current masking behaviors of U.S. residents, found that cloth masks, scarves, bandanas, and gaiters remain the masks of choice for 64% of the population, according to a study by the Covid States Project, a collaborative research effort by Northeastern, Harvard, Northwestern, and Rutgers. The next most popular were surgical masks, worn by 38% of respondents, followed by just 21% who wore higher-quality respirators such as the N95. Nine percent said they didn’t wear a mask at all.
The findings suggest that people should be more choosy and opt for the N95s because of their superior filtering capacity, says Northeastern’s David Lazer, university distinguished professor of political science and computer science, and one of the study’s authors. “With an N95, if it’s fitted properly and you go to the supermarket, it’s very unlikely you’re going to get infected,” he says. “A cloth mask is better than not wearing any mask, but you can still get infected.” Many people were already aware of the N95’s advantages, which could explain why more than half of respondents in the national study were under the impression that they were backed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They aren’t.