With coronavirus numbers creeping back up all over the country, wearing
a face covering in public is not only strongly encouraged by the CDC but
mandatory in some places, including Baton Rouge. Face shields –
typically seen only in clinical settings as part of full protective gear
-- are emerging as an alternative to regular face masks. Simply put, it’s
a piece of rigid, clear plastic attached to a headband, with the plastic
covering the face and extending below the chin. Are face shields a safe
alternative for general use, and what kind of protection do they offer?
The CDC does not recommend the use of face shields for normal everyday
activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings. The main downside
to face shields is that the droplets released when someone coughs, sneezes
or speaks can be dispersed through the sides and bottom of the shield.
While draping a piece of cloth along the bottom of the face shield is
recommended, the effectiveness has not yet been widely studied.
Research suggests that the coronavirus usually spreads via large droplets
expelled out of a person’s mouth or nose, which are pulled down
by gravity within a radius of six feet. (Hence the six-foot rule.) Masks
absorb droplets when we sneeze or cough, but face shields do not.
If you do choose to wear a face shield over a face mask, you will need
to sanitize it frequently. Research has found that this virus likes to
live on plastic a lot better than it lives on porous materials like cloth,
paper or cardboard. You can disinfect it with an antibacterial wipe, alcohol
pad or soap and water. If it gets any cracks in it, you should also throw
it out and get a new one.
Though some states have listed face shields as an alternative to cloth
masks, the CDC has not recommended the use of face shields in lieu of
face coverings. For now, face masks are the better option for most people.