Clear plastic barriers can now be seen in the supermarkets, separating cashiers and customers; we also find these clear plastic barriers at gas stations and administrative windows separating clerks from visitors. This even happens in cafés, bakeries and coffee shops, separating baristas from the rest of food prep crews who also often wear face shields.
In hospitals, dental clinics and doctor offices, face shields are the standard and expected when taking care of infectious patients. Currently, there’s no formal recommendation from the CDC issued to the general public about wearing a face shield because the science isn’t clear yet. But Dr. Anthony Fauci says, there is a certain logic to it: “So the virus doesn’t enter the body through the mouth, nose and eyes,” he is advising to people to wear eye shields. Deborah Birx MD, another White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, also agrees. Says Birx, “we think that face shields could protect the individuals and that it would decrease the ability for them to touch their eyes and spread the virus.”
So, why is CDC still not officially recommending face shields for the general public? The answer is rather complicated. The CDC is not not recommending it; they published guidelines saying that face shields may be the only solution for people with certain medical conditions like deafness. There is currently not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of face shields for source control, thus, CDC is saying that shields are not a direct substitute for masks.
Like with anything else related to COVID-19, institutions and research centers are working around the clock to provide information on the most recent studies, but there’s more testing to be done. In the meantime, it’s good to use common sense and logic. It’s also good to remember that, in the early months of the pandemic, we didn’t have the availability of face masks for the general public as they were only distributed to hospitals and first-responders. Maker spaces, schools, 3D print shops, and innovative manufacturers started ‘ad hoc’ face shield productions for distribution among communities. This was in accordance with FDA, which issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in response to concerns relating to insufficient supply and availability of PPE. The face shields were what probably helped slow down the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. early on.
Today, we know face shields used widely by health care personnel (HCP) as personal protective equipment (PPE) in healthcare settings in accordance with CDC recommendations to cover the front and sides of the face and provide barrier protection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medical experts advise wearing a shield in addition to the mask or when the face mask is simply not an option. Some doctors suggest that shields are a better alternative than face masks because they remind a person wearing it not to touch the face and others around to keep the social distance.