EXPERIMENT: Germs that spread while wearing a mask vs not wearing one

Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 6:01 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - While the CDC says wearing a mask in public helps slow the spread of COVID-19, some are still pushing back on the idea, so we tested out the scientific theory ourselves.

Our mouths are full of bacteria.

“When I talk, when I cough, things like that I am putting out aerosols from my respiratory secretions,” said Stacie Bledsoe, operations manager at the Clinical Laboratory at the Med Center.

Masks are worn to protect to OTHERS from getting YOUR germs. The CDC recommends it, doctors preach it, science proves it.

“The number one thing to prevent the spread of Covid,” said Bledsoe.

However, there still seems to be some push back on mask wearing, so the Medical Center’s Laboratory invited me in 13 News help unmask the truth with a visual science experiment.

“So today I’m going to have you cough on these petri dishes,” explained Bledsoe.

This was done three separate times all while wearing a cloth mask, a surgical mask and then with no mask. After coughing four times into each dish, they were then put in an incubator.

"The plates are incubating right now at body temperature to grow the bacteria."

After 24 hours, we found out what manifested in the dishes.

“With the cloth mask you can see nothing came out,” showed Bledsoe.

As was the same story for the surgical mask.

And finally, the moment of truth, and a quite visually disturbing one to take in. Coughing with no mask culture these colorfully earthy circles across the plate- germs.

“Many bacteria came out and you could see it on the culture,” said Bledsoe. “Your respiratory secretions produced normal flora that comes out when you’re speaking.”

Mask experiment with the Medical Center's Laboratory
Mask experiment with the Medical Center's Laboratory(Kelly Dean)

If someone was infected with COVID and maskless, those germs have the potential to spread to a person at risk.

“You can see it here that your normal secretions contain all that stuff.”

From a cough to a culture, straight from the science lab. While perhaps it’s a a visual and nauseating illustration, this final product allows us to literally SEE what happens when our mouths aren’t shielded. Again proving that masks matter because our neighbors sure do too.

“You can see how important it is when you wear a mask vs not wearing a mask,” said Bledsoe. “I’m protecting others and protecting the young and the old.”

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