A Face Mask Alternative That Doesn’t Cover Your Face

By Shmuel Smith

Cloth face masks. Zoe1013 

YERUSHALAYIM – Face masks, which provide the wearer with a level of protection from airborne viruses like Covid, were not the ideal solution for many people during the pandemic. Some found the coverings uncomfortable, while others were unhappy with its interference with an ability to have one’s face seen and seeing others’ faces.

Now there might be a way to protect oneself from viruses without covering the face with a material. Israeli scientists have invented an “air screen” that does the job without those drawbacks, The Times of Israel reported on Thursday.

It’s a small battery-powered device that fits onto a baseball cap and emits air that blows downwards in front of the face at 19 miles per hour, creating an invisible shield for the wearer. They say it works as well as a cloth mask.

Testing showed that the device blocked about 62 percent of droplets and aerosols that were aimed at the person wearing the device; and 99% of the droplets and aerosols traveling from the wearer to others were stopped.

The tests used particles of different sizes that mimic the movement of virus droplets and aerosols, which are minuscule pieces of bodily fluid that can carry the coronavirus or other viruses.

“We tried to quantify how many droplets still reached the face, and found that the ‘air screen’ gives high protection which is comparable to that of masks,” Moshe Shoham, professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and co-lead of the study, told ToI.

“This is a good solution, given that regular masks are very uncomfortable for many, especially the elderly, and very inconvenient for people in professions such as teaching and therapy who want their faces seen,” Shoham said.

The Technion team is not the first to develop air flow as a substitute for masks. Dyson, the vacuum cleaner company, is reportedly set release headphones equipped with an air-filtering device. Unlike Shoham’s solution, it attaches to the face and is expected to cost hundreds of dollars, while his will be much cheaper.

Prof. David Greenblatt, who worked with Shoham on the project, said that the device will be relevant even after covid is over.

“What we’ve developed will stop SARS‑CoV‑2 droplets, and also help against MERS, influenza and various other viruses,” he said. “We expect our device to be affordable and effective. We think the pandemic has shown the usefulness of face masks far beyond covid, and we expect this to have relevance after the pandemic.”

The company established to produce the air screen, Wisdome Wearables, hopes to have it on the market within a few months.

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