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Infectious disease experts weigh in on using face shields for COVID-19 protection

Posted at 3:10 PM, Aug 04, 2020

The conversation around wearing different protective gear is expanding. In particular, face shields.

Teachers recently asked the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, about it and he said, “if you can get one, it’s not a bad idea.”

Fauci went on to say that a shield shouldn't necessarily be worn in place of a mask, but more parents are considering the option for kids.

“For some of the kids, a mask just isn't going to work. And in those cases, a face shield can be considered, but I think it needs to be understood that that’s not the default,” said Dr. Preeti Malani with the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Infectious disease experts say there just isn't enough data yet on how much protection a face shield provides.

One study found it did significantly reduce the number of inhaled droplets, but cloth masks are also about protecting others. Shields were not as sure to do that as well.

“If you're wearing a shield, the respiratory secretions that might be coming from your mouth or nose are not going to be as well contained,” said Malani.

In the health care setting, face shields are used primarily to prevent splashing in the eyes.

Malani offered this advice about finding the right shield.

“It’s important that it’s long enough to really protect the whole face and that it wraps around fully and that it fits well up at the forehead,” said Malani.

Companies, including Apple, Nike, General Motors, and John Deere have all started producing face shields.

In a JAMA Network open viewpoint, it was pointed out that face shields have some advantages over masks. They can be reused indefinitely, they are easier to clean, they are comfortable, and they help prevent touching of the face.