SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Drury University announced it is banning neck gaiters as acceptable face coverings while on campus.
In a post on Facebook, Drury says “Due to the study released by Duke University today, and in consultation with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, neck gaiters will no longer be considered acceptable face coverings. Please use a different style of face covering when you are on campus.”
Duke University chemists tested the effectiveness of 14 different types of masks, along with other face coverings. The study found that neck gaiters might be worse than not wearing a mask at all. N-95 masks were found to be the best at limiting water droplets. Executive vice president of Drury University David Hinson analyzed the study in its entirety.
“The thin material provided more atomization of what comes out of your mouth,” Hinson said. “So, for example, rather than having large particles in the atmosphere, they created smaller particles – atomized – that stayed in the air longer. That was a very interesting study.”
Hinson looked over the data with the university’s Student, Health and Public Safety committee. The committee consists of faculty, students and staff, and they meet three times a week. They talk about issues like masking, social distancing and changes in policies, like its recent announcement.
“As we have worked as a committee to look at things to keep our students, staff and faculty population here on campus, we try to be driven by the best data that we have available,” Hinson said.
The committee consults with local health authorities, they go to meetings with the Missouri Higher Education and Workforce Development and they talk with peers here in Springfield.
“As we were looking at [the study], we just recognized the science is now telling us that these [neck gaiters] can potentially do a lot more harm than good,” Hinson said. “In a pretty short amount of time consulting with our committee, we decided to say neck gaiters just aren’t the way to go for us. While it’s important for us to have face coverings and it’s required in every classroom and academic building, we want to make sure that they are the right type of face covering, and that we are indeed keeping each other safe.”
With commencement ceremonies happening this week, Hinson says the committee wanted the best science at their disposal available.
Some might not agree with Hinson’s decision, and Hinson acknowledges that.
“I know it is a highly political choice that people think that they’re making with regard to the mask,” Hinson said. “We have instituted a mask required policy since we have returned to work here in the summer. We have safely been here at work since June, and have done so with only reporting one case of COVID. We feel we can operate safely. It’s up to the individuals to hold themselves and each other accountable.”
Is this a sign of more changes to come at Drury? Hinson says the committee is looking at things on a case-by-case basis.
“We just don’t know what’s going to come tomorrow,” Hinson said. “There may be a new piece of data, and then we’ll make the decision then. But, we are going to remain open and try to operate with transparency.”
Hinson says Drury sent an email to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department asking for feedback on their decision. Their response, more or less? Hinson says the department agreed with the conclusions presented in the study.
“But, having said that, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to change their official guidance,” Hinson said. “I don’t want to get over my skis and put words in the mouth of the health department.”
Kathryn Wall, with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, says there isn’t enough study for the Health Department to comment, but respect Drury’s decision.
“We did discuss the findings of it and whether that’s concerning or not. From our perspective this is not one singular study that has some holes in it in the sense that we have some questions about some pieces of it,” said Wall. “That’s just not enough for us to change our guidance. But we understand where Drury decided out of an abundance of caution.”