The Week That Wasn't in COVID-19: Bandanas Ineffective, Gym Risk

Victoria Giardina


July 10, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

This week in COVID-19 news, researchers suggested that bandanas are the least effective nonmedical face covering, and a new study said going to the gym doesn't increase COVID-19 risk. But you didn't see these headlines on Medscape Medical News. Here's why.

Bandanas Ineffective

Bandanas are the least effective face covering for blocking respiratory droplets, a team of researchers suggest in a recent study in the journal Physics of Fluids. The team used a hollow mannequin head and a recreational fog machine to simulate respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes and a laser to measure how far these droplets traveled when the mannequin wore various face coverings, including the bandana, or no covering.

With no covering, the average distance traveled was about 8 feet. A stitched mask made of quilted cotton was found most effective, with an average distance of 2.5 inches, followed by a commercial cone mask, at 8 inches, a folded handkerchief, at 1 foot 3 inches, and lastly, the bandana, at 3 feet 7 inches.

This study is a novel illustration of something many healthcare workers likely already know: all face coverings are not created equal. Mask type and fit matter. But because this study, in a journal not known for publishing clinical trials, was a simulation and the researchers tested nonmedical face coverings for their ability to hold in respiratory spray, not the efficacy of medical masks in protecting healthcare workers from infection, we didn't think it was high-priority information for our readers.

Gym Risk

Researchers in Norway conducted a randomized, 2-week study as gyms began reopening in the country to test whether the facilities would spread COVID-19. They randomly assigned gym members aged 18 to 64 years who had no relevant comorbidities at five training facilities in Oslo, Norway. They allowed some members access to their facility and prevented access for others.

The gyms implemented increased social distancing guidelines for exercising and enhanced hand and surface hygiene as they reopened. Only one participant tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 out of more than 3000 individuals who were tested 2 weeks into the study. No study participants visited doctors or hospitals because of COVID-19.

This study may seem like good news for gym goers, but it doesn't prove that it is safe to go to gyms in every geographic location. With hardly any COVID-19 infections in Oslo during the study period, participants were already at low risk, so the study showed that going to the gym doesn't increase the risk if it is "virtually 0% anyway," Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, BSc, MPH, a PhD candidate at the University of Wollongong in Australia, wrote on Twitter of the study. The findings were released in a preprint and have yet to be peer reviewed.

Victoria Giardina is Medscape's editorial intern. She has previously written for "The Dr. Oz Show" and is currently a National Lifestyle Writer for Her Campus. She can be reached at or on Twitter @VickyRGiardina.

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