Pandemic Perspective #24 September 5, 2020
Wearing a plastic face shield instead of a cloth mask has its advantages. Others can see your smile, you won’t smudge your make-up, your glasses won’t fog up and breathing is sure a lot more comfortable. That’s the upside.
The downside is that it won’t protect the folks you encounter from the virus that you might be carrying before symptoms show up, or if you are truly asymptomatic but still showering your environment with live virus. And they only do a fair job of protecting you. That was demonstrated in a Swiss study in which shield-wearers were not protected as well as persons who wore a properly fitted cloth mask.
If you’re unknowingly carrying SARS-CoV-2 most, but not all, the droplets that you sneeze, cough or simply exhale while you’re talking, singing or shouting will be directed downward or sideways from the shield and sink to the floor harmlessly. Aerosols are another matter. Those tiny particles – really tiny — that escape from below or to the side can float around for hours.
If you do use a shield be sure to wash it thoroughly every day. And just like a mask, if you touch the outside of the shield you’ll transfer any virus particles onto your fingers and then to your eyes.
The CDC recommends that persons who wear a shield because it looks cool or to protect their eyes should also wear a mask! Now that’s a bummer!
The bottom line: no face covering is perfect. Maintaining distance from others and frequent handwashing still matter.