A recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association has shown that face shield is even more effective than mask when it comes to protecting yourself and others from COVID-19.
Amesh Adalja, M.D., a pandemic preparedness expert at the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security, says, “There’s a lot of at least biological possibility to suspect that [shields] are definitely better than homemade face masks, and maybe even better than other types of masks as well, because they not only prevent you from spreading it, as it also covers your eyes, it provides more protection to the mucus membranes of your face where you might be getting infected.”
James Cherry, M.D., a distinguished research professor and infectious disease expert at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, says that while experts aren’t yet sure about how vulnerable our eyes are to infection from this coronavirus, “With many viruses, the eyes are important.”
He pointed to measles and adenoviruses as examples of viruses that are known to infect people through their eyes.
He said: “With a mask, you may find yourself constantly adjusting it and therefore touching your face and possibly transferring the virus from your hands, but wearing a shield “doesn’t really put you in a position where you’re touching your face so much, because it’s not cumbersome to wear.”
Adalja added, “If you walk down the sidewalk, you can find lots of masks that are just discarded there, which are an infection control risk for other people. Whereas a face shield is something that people can just clean themselves and reuse.”
A recent opinion piece in JAMA by Eli Perencevich, M.D., a professor of internal medicine and epidemiology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, and two of his colleagues pointed to such benefits of shields for infection prevention and noted that “face shields appear to significantly reduce the amount of inhalation exposure to influenza virus, another droplet-spread respiratory virus.
In a simulation study, face shields were shown to reduce immediate viral exposure by 96 per cent when worn by a simulated healthcare worker within 18 inches of a cough.” In an April 19 tweet Perencevich wrote, “Biggest benefit of face shields would be inside crowded office situations where air exchanges aren’t ideal.”
Another benefit is that with warmer weather, many may also find a face shield attached to a headband or cap cooler to wear than a cloth mask.
Some members of the public are taking such arguments to heart — choosing shields especially for their ability to keep the entire face visible.
Lauren Lek, head of school at Academy of Our Lady of Peace, in San Diego, plans to have her 750 returning faculty and students wear face shields at school rather than masks this August.
“Safety and health for our community is a priority for us in reopening,” she says. “As soon as we saw from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our local public health office that face shields would be an acceptable alternative to face masks, we knew this was a direction we wanted to move in.”
Noting that face-to-face interaction is key to the education her school provides, Lek adds that face shields are better than masks for students with learning differences, including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), because they allow for full visibility of facial expressions that can help them read and understand social cues.
The school has purchased more than 10 different types of face shields to test before classes restart, Lek says, with each posing challenges in terms of clarity, fogging, ease of cleaning and reuse. They also shouldn’t cause headaches when worn 10 hours a day. “With each product we try, we are getting closer to the best option for the start of school in August.”
Carnahan acknowledges that masks are difficult for people like herself who have hearing difficulties. She says she finds herself asking colleagues to repeat themselves frequently when she cannot see their mouths. “It is a reality for many who rely on lip reading or ASL [American Sign Language] that masks make communicating much harder,” she notes, “especially because facial expressions are an integral part of American Sign Language.”
Whatever you decide to wear to prevent infection when you’re out and about, keep in mind that staying safe from COVID-19 means putting in place multiple safeguards, including thorough hand washing.
The most important safety measure, though, is social distancing, Cherry says. “The virus is in these droplets, and they don’t go very far they fall to the ground. So that’s why staying six feet away from others is the most important thing that we can all do.”
Ashley Pangold of Port Charlotte said she and her team kind of feel helpless seeing people suffering from Coronavirus despite using facemask. “And for me, to get that little piece of control back – helping the community is kind of how I do that.”
When Coronavirus came on the scene, Ashley Pangold of Port focused on helping the helpers. She created a network of sewers to make masks for essential workers and community members in need, donating more than 8,400 face shields.