The athletic apparel company announced Thursday that it has created a "sportsmask" for athletes and anyone else training in public or looking to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to wear a mask to reduce the spread of the virus.
Under Armour says the $30 reusable black mask is water resistant and "designed for maximum breathability" while also reducing the spread of respiratory droplets, which health experts consider to be a primary way that the coronavirus is transmitted.
A study published last week in The Lancet found that without a mask, social distancing or any other preventive measures, the risk of transmitting the coronavirus is 17.4%, but with a mask or respirator, it's only 3.1%.
Dr. Derek Chu, a clinical scholar of medicine at McMaster University in the Canadian province of Ontario and a co-author of the study, told TODAY that the most effective types of masks were surgical masks or cotton masks with 12 to 16 layers of fabric.
The Under Armour mask has three layers, two of them fabric and one of them foam. One of the fabric layers is treated with an anti-microbial technology called PROTX2 that the company said has been shown to destroy COVID-19 in laboratory tests.
So can a mask like this be effective?
NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres told TODAY it's tough to comment on the effectiveness of PROTX2 until studies are done, but the mask may have some merits.
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"This mask, like others, can help decrease the spread of coronavirus by cutting down on the distribution of respiratory droplets, but as to how well it cuts down on them, we’d need to know how many microns the mask filters out," Torres said. "As for the bacteria-killing property of the material, that could be true, but it wouldn’t mean the same for viruses since they tend to be harder to kill, or at least different methods are needed."
Under Armour has been making masks for health care professionals in need of personal protective equipment during the pandemic since March and used what it learned to design the new mask.
"Experience told us that fabric and performance had to be our first focus, so we set out to find a fabric combination that created structure to ensure the mask would stand off the face and offer maximum breathability,” Kyle Blakely, vice president of materials innovation at Under Armour, said in a news release.
The mask also includes a moldable nose-bridge that secures it in place and also helps prevent glasses from fogging up while wearing it.
"As for breathability, that would be a bit subjective, but I’m guessing they made it more breathable than other masks so It could be used for workouts, but there is a trade off between breathability and its efficiency at blocking out respiratory droplets," Torres said.
"My guess is that this is as good, but probably not much better, than most triple-layer cloth masks."
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