Doctor says face shields shouldn’t replace masks to prevent COVID-19 spread

Coronavirus

More and more people are choosing to wear shields over masks in the summer heat

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As Americans “mask up” to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a new trend is emerging with more people wearing clear, plastic face shields instead. We asked a doctor if it matters which one we choose to wear.

Masks and shields have really become the look of 2020. Time and time again, health experts have pleaded with the public to wear masks during this pandemic.

What about face shields, though? They’re most commonly worn by health officials treating COVID-19 patients, but more and more people are choosing them over masks in the summer heat.

But do they offer more or less protection when you’re out and about?

“From what we know right now, face shields by itself — unless there’s a bottom and side covering — is not equal to a face mask,” said Dr. Jim Kravec, Mahoning County medical director.

Kravec said face shields add an extra layer of protection, especially in a hospital setting, when worn with a mask. For the general public, though, a mask is still the recommendation.

“Really, the rationale is it doesn’t block the spread from you to someone else as well as a face mask does,” he said. “As far as blocking incoming droplets, if there’s no bottom covering or side covering of [the shield], it’s not as good as well.”

Kravec said droplets from another person, which could potentially infect you with the virus, could more easily come through the gaps on the sides and bottom of a face shield.

He said there’s still a lot of research being done on this topic, but from what health experts know right now — and based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — face shields should not be worn by themselves unless there’s a bottom and side covering.

There is some compromise, though.

“If someone absolutely refuses to wear a face mask, a face shield is better than nothing and I think that’s a practical compromise,” Kravec said.

He believes we’re moving in the right direction and social distancing is making a difference.

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