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Can Face Shields Protect Me the Same as a Regular Mask?

  • Category: Coronavirus
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Baton Rouge General
Can Face Shields Protect Me the Same as a Regular Mask?

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.