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As schools start up for the fall across the country, the question of kids and masks looms large. In some states, masks are mandated for all public schools, regardless of vaccination status. In other states, mask mandates are banned. In still others, the decision is left up to local leaders, with perspectives on what is right and safe falling across the spectrum.

Such uncertainty and inconsistency have left parents reeling, especially with the highly contagious Delta variant surging, millions of kids too young to be vaccinated yet, and drastically differing opinions on whether kids should mask up in the classroom.

The evidence for universal masking preventing viral spread is quite deep and wide at this point, but concerned parents may be looking for more specific guidance. Which masks are best for kids? And where do I even start trying to figure that out?

Thankfully, there's a guy who has answers to those questions.

Aaron Collins is a mechanical engineer who wrote his Master's thesis on the science of aerosols—tiny particles in the air from things like smoke or viruses—and worked for years developing instruments to measure and describe them. During the peak of the pandemic, he built an aerosol lab in his bathroom to test which masks are most effective at preventing aerosol spread and has been meticulously recording the results of his tests ever since.

He has collected his data in a Google doc that anyone can access and shares his findings in YouTube videos. According to his FAQ, this is the goal of the project:

  • Identify both highly protective masks, and suppliers that have quality controls in place so that there is a high confidence that products sold meet these requirements.
  • Test and identify as many high quality protective masks as possible.
  • Help explain the complex discussion about masks, provide context to the different types and test standards
  • Provide a transparent data collection and data analysis so people can see what is happening, the limitations of my test.
  • Be completely independent from a mask supplier or source. Independent reviews is the most important thing, I want no bias!

In one of his most recent videos, Collins shared what kid masks he recommends if you're looking for high filtration masks. (High filtration masks protect the wearer in addition to protecting those around them.) Check it out:

Current Top Mask Picks & Kids Maskswww.youtube.com

You can read his FAQ here for more information about how he analyses the masks. Also, check out the Google spreadsheet with all of his data and links to where you can find these masks here.

As COVID cases increase and kids start congregating in classrooms, the question of protection is only going to grow more important. Getting ahead of the spread with effective masks is one way families can ease some of the concern as well as (hopefully) protect us all from worsening variants in the coming months.