STRATEGIST INVESTIGATES JULY 20, 2020
Should You Be Wearing a Face Shield?
By Karen Iorio Adelson
Although we’re several months into the coronavirus pandemic, infections and deaths continue to climb in the U.S., making it clear that we cannot relax our vigilance wearing cloth face masks, practicing social distancing, and frequently washing our hands. If you’re doing all of the above but still wondering if there’s anything else you can try to stop the spread, you may have considered buying a face shield. While the CDC does not recommend face shields as a substitute for cloth masks, we consulted with two infectious-disease experts to learn more about why — or why not — you may choose to add one to your virus-fighting arsenal.
Ravina Kullar, an infectious-disease specialist, epidemiologist, and spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), explains two ways a face shield offers extra protection when worn on top of a cloth mask. First, it blocks particles from entering your eyes, which, as she says, “is another route of transmission for the virus.” And second, the shield makes it less likely that you’ll touch your face with unwashed hands. Aaron E. Glatt, chair of medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau and an IDSA spokesperson, tells us that face shields are primarily used to protect the eyes of health-care workers who come into direct contact with patients who have, or are suspected to have, COVID-19. Since the face shield doesn’t form a tight seal around your nose and mouth, you’ll still need to wear a mask to prevent your own respiratory droplets from escaping and infecting those around you. “You will be protecting others with the face mask while protecting yourself with the face shield,” says Kullar.
If you’re unable to wear a cloth mask for medical reasons (the CDC details some possible situations here), Glatt says you can wear a face shield on its own, but “try to distance as much as possible.” For the vast majority of the population, however, Glatt and Kullar agree that if you want to wear a face shield, it should be worn only in addition to a face mask, not instead of one. If you do choose to buy a face shield, Kullar recommends cleaning it daily with “soap and warm water or a disinfectant wipe that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.”