A neck gaiter, or neck warmer, also known as a buff, is an article of clothing accessory worn about the neck for warmth. It is a closed tube of fabric, often thick fleece, merino wool, synthetic wicking, or knit material, which is slipped on and off over the face/head. It can also be pulled up over the mouth to keep out wind, sand and other debris. Some balaclavas have a thin hood attached to what is essentially a neck gaiter. CDC recommends that people wear masks in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people.
Neck gaiters are a popular choice for the construction industry because they can be more comfortable than other masks over long periods of time, can be more versatile, and some even made with a cooling fabric.
According to the study, titled “Efficacy of face masks, neck gaiters and face shields for reducing the expulsion of simulated cough-generated aerosols,” neck gaiters worn in a single layer are nearly as effective at blocking aerosol particles from coughs as cloth masks. Worn in a double layer, the gaiters can actually be more effective than their cloth equivalents.
Face shield: blocks 2% of cough aerosols
Single layer neck gaiter: 47%
Cotton cloth face mask: 51%
Medical procedure mask: 59%
Double layer neck gaiter: 60%
To reflect the results of this study, the CDC has updated their Guide to Masks to recommend the use of double layered neck gaiters as a mask. As you can imagine from reading the chart above, the study – and subsequently the CDC – do not recommend the use of face shield to prevent the spread of the virus.
The study also underlines the fact that cloth masks and neck gaiters are meant to protect other people, not the wearer, from the spread of large respiratory aerosols, which are airborne liquid droplets and dried particles that are spread through talking, singing, coughing, breathing, or sneezing. COVID-19 can be carried through these droplets of an infected person.
It’s important to note that cloth masks and neck gaiters are not considered PPE and can not be used in place of respirators for construction tasks that require them, such as concrete demolition.