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UW Madison research on mask fitters used in new CDC guidance

Published: Feb. 11, 2021 at 12:51 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 11, 2021 at 6:49 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The CDC put out a new recommendation Wednesday, encouraging the use of mask fitters. This may be a new term to many people, but a team of UW Madison engineers and researchers, cited in the CDC’S guidance, have been encouraging the public to use them for months.

In November, NBC15 spoke with two UW Madison Engineers, who developed a mask fitter called the Badger Seal.

It creates a tight seal around the nose and mouth, so particles can’t as easily escape from the sides, top and bottom of a mask.

The CDC now says tightly fitted masks can potentially increase a wearers’ protection by more than 90%. A mask fitter can help make a cloth or medical mask function more like an N95 mask. The CDC directly referenced UW’s research as justification.

“Disposable masks, those have really good filter material, but I think most people can see that there’s a lot of gaps on the sides and things like that. The ideal would be an N95 mask, but we still seem to have supply issues so that’s where the Badger Seal fits in,” says Dr. Lennon Rodgers of UW’s Grainger Engineering Design Innovation Lab.

In November, UW Madison released the open-source design for the Badger Seal. A couple small manufacturers have already produced and sold at least 10,000 of them.

“It’s starting to ramp up quiet a bit and that was before the CDC just released their guidelines. I think even before the CDC people starting seeing the value in them, there was the need” says Dr. Rodgers.

Dr. Rodgers says it’s a proud moment for their research to get recognized on a national level.

“It’s definitely fulfilling for all of us. Every single engineer or designer or manufacturer that’s been involved. It has been extremely rewarding to work on these projects that are our being used. I mean to see people randomly on the street wearing them, it kind of reaffirms things that a lot of us already knew,” says Dr. Rodgers.

UW Madison put out free instructions showing you how you can make your very own mask fitter at home, using cheap and easy to find materials or you can purchase one online.

“I think what would be great is if people that are able to, they’d create their own little manufacturing hub. They can get the design, they’re really easy to make 50 or 100 or more of them, buy the materials in bulk and then either sell them or just give them out to family or friends,” says Dr. Rodgers.

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