As most people now know, face masks reduce the spread of the coronavirus, and establishments have started to implement regulations that require their use. With the number of reopenings increasing, some experts are advising another personal protective equipment the public can use for added protection against the pandemic: clear plastic face shields.
"I wear a face shield every time I enter a store or other building," said Dr Eli Perencevich. "Sometimes, I also wear a cloth mask if required by the store's policy."
Last month in an opinion article in JAMA, Dr Perencevich along with two of his colleagues suggested that clear plastic face shields can reduce the spread of the coronavirus among people if appropriately used along with other safety and health protocols.
According to the New York Times, the suggestion is not baseless, as Singapore is giving out face shields to preschool teachers and their students when schools reopen next month.
A teachers union located in Palo Alto, California has requested face shields for its members as local experts recommend their use to teachers in Philadelphia.
Face shields add another option that citizens can use to reduce the spread of the virus and experts say it might be more comfortable and more effective than face masks.
"Face shields, which can be quickly and affordably produced and distributed, should be included as part of strategies to safely and significantly reduce transmission in the community setting," said three physicians from the University of Iowa.
The use of cloth masks has been advised by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the fight against the coronavirus. Laboratory testings, however, "suggests that cloth masks provide only some filtration of virus-sized aerosol particles."
Dr Perencevich's team said that "face shields may provide a better option," as reported by Medicinenet. The team also stated that face shields show improved effectivity when it extends to below the chin. The equipment should cover the ears as well and "there should be no exposed gap between the forehead and the shield's headpiece," they added.
Face shields offer a multitude of advantages over face masks which include being reusable and require minimal cleaning. They also keep the wearer from inadvertently touching their face.
Face masks are pulled down when people talk. Still, face shields would avoid this, and "the use of a face shield is also a reminder to maintain social distancing, but allows visibility of facial expressions and lip movements for speech perception," the team said.
Large scale studies have not yet been conducted with the use of face shields, but "in a simulation study, face shields were shown to reduce immediate viral exposure by 96% when worn by a simulated health care worker within 18 inches of a cough."
"When the study was repeated at the currently recommended physical distancing distance of six feet, face shields reduced inhaled virus by 92%," said the authors.
Dr Perencevich and his team imagined that people who find face masks uncomfortable or challenging to use would find face shields much easier to wear and use. They added that once someone uses them for the first time, its many benefits will become apparent.