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July 9, 2020

Just when I thought I was squared away with my arsenal of face masks, discussion of clear face shields for the public is another hot topic. Normally used by medical professionals, the question is whether common folk should also be using the full face covering – for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons. I saw my neighbor’s mother wearing one when she got out of her car. “My daughter-in-law bought this for me – I wear it all the time!”

A shield covers your entire face, including your vulnerable mucous membranes, that is, eyes, nose, and mouth. Voices aren’t muffled, like they can be with face masks. Experts even say that shields could be more effective than masks when used in normal daily settings.

In learning situations such as classrooms, the clear shields make a difference when communicating. To prepare for a more Covid-friendly environment, some school administrators are already stocking up on face shields for teachers and students.

My concern about shields has been whether airborne droplets can travel underneath them. The quick answer is no because viral droplets naturally move downward. “The odds of the viral particles floating upwards under your shield are a long shot…,” according to Amesh Adalja, M.D., a pandemic preparedness expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

In more risky environments such as the inability to social distance, people can double up on protection by also wearing a face mask.

We are constantly learning about new ways to co-exist with coronavirus. But if we can see a friendly face and smiles through a clear shield, perhaps we can spread some happiness.

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