Face shield vs mask

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While in Grenada a plastic face shield covering one’s nose and mouth is accepted as a form of protection against COVID-19, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not currently recommend it as a substitute for masks.

This is so because according to the CDC, “At this time, it is not known what level of protection a face shield provides to people nearby from the spray of respiratory droplets from the wearer. There is currently not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of face shields for source control.”

COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about six-feet), so the use of masks is particularly important where people are close to each other or where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

Therefore, masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises his/her voice. This is called source control.

However, masks can become uncomfortable to wear over extended periods, can irritate the skin, fog glasses and make breathing difficult. It also can be difficult for people who have hearing loss to communicate when mouths are covered, muffling voices and hiding facial expressions.

In such cases, the CDC recommends face shields that wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend below the chin for better protection.

Though internationally, face shield is worn for eye protection, the CDC also advised that:

  • Face shield wearers should wash their hands before and after removing the face shield and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth when removing it.
  • Disposable face shields should only be worn for a single use and disposed of according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use according to manufacturer instructions or by following CDC face shield cleaning instructions.
  • Plastic face shields for newborns and infants are NOT recommended.

Health officials have noted that while there has not been a study comparing face shields to masks, doing such study would be challenging since mask materials vary. However, it is said that if someone combines a mask with a face shield, it can provide added protection.

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