Mechanical engineer, science communicator, television personality, and all around beloved science guy Bill Nye conducted a face mask demonstration on TikTok to show why it's important that people wear this piece of protective equipment during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. In a series of two back-to-back TikTok videos, Nye used a lit candle to test various different face coverings and show how they can help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
"Face masks like this one prevent particles from my respiratory system from getting into the air and then getting into your respiratory system," Nye said while holding up a face mask.
He went on to explain that blocking the movement of air, which is what face masks aim to do, is "an old trick." A scarf, for example, is designed to block the movement of air around the throat to keep the body warm. But as Nye demonstrated, a scarf isn't particularly effective at blocking respiratory particles. In fact, Nye was easily able to blow out a lit candle while holding the scarf over his mouth.
Nye then tested a cloth mask made by sewing two layers of fabric together and fitting a pipe cleaner around the bridge of the nose. "It blocks the movement of air very effectively," Nye said of the mask before repeatedly attempting to blow out the candle while wearing it over his mouth and nose. "If you're wearing one of these, you're protecting yourself and those around you."
In part two of his "Consider the Following" TikTok video, Nye tests an N95 mask, which he noted are designed to block particles in a medical environment. Despite Nye repeatedly blowing on the candle while wearing the mask, the candle's flame doesn't even flicker.
"The reason we want you to wear a mask is to protect you, sure," Nye said. "But the main reason we want you to wear a mask, is to protect me from you, and the particles from your respiratory system from getting into my respiratory system."
To reduce the spread of coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended people wear cloth face coverings of some kind when in public and around other people who are not a part of their household. According to the CDC, such face coverings may prevent individuals who have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, from spreading it to others. But the CDC has noted that masks are more effective when widely used, meaning everyone is using them as opposed to a small percentage of the population.
Despite health officials' recommendations — and in some places statewide mandates — some people have continued to refuse to wear masks when in closed public settings like grocery stores. While a small percentage of people may have valid medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face mask, many appear to simply be opposed to the minor inconvenience or temporary discomfort wearing a mask might bring.
But Nye stressed the discomfort and inconvenience of face masks is worth it if it means potentially saving lives. "Everybody, this is a matter literally of life and death and when I use the word literally I mean literally a matter of life and death," Nye said in his video. "So when you're out in public, please wear a mask."
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.