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Face Shields for Preventing COVID-19
Question: Should I wear a face shield to protect from coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Answer: Just as face masks are now commonly worn in public to protect from exposure to the virus known as SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19), face shields (clear plastic shields that cover the face) are starting to be worn outside of medical settings, and for good reason. At a distance of just 18 inches from a coughing individual, face shields have been shown to reduce immediate viral exposure by 96%, according to a study using influenza virus (Lindsley, J Occup Environ Hyg 2014).
As discussed in an article in JAMA (Perencevich, et al, April 29, 2020), the Infectious Disease Society of America has included societal use of face shields as well as face masks in its recommendations as restrictions are eased on extreme social distancing. Face shields address two key means of preventing coronavirus transmission: They provide a barrier to respiratory droplets (which, according to the CDC, can occur when a person coughs, sneezes, or talks) and help wearers avoid touching their face. In addition, unlike masks and N95 respirators, they cover the eyes as well as the mouth and nose, allow for easier communication, and are more easily cleaned (with just soap and water or household disinfectants) for reuse. They provide a better barrier to respiratory droplets than cloth face masks, but should be used with a mask for protection from airborne virus.
Note that face shields are only necessary when in close proximity to an infectious person. As determined in a study using influenza virus (noted above), at six feet away they reduced inhaled virus by 92%, which was no better than with distancing alone — demonstrating the importance of social distancing.
For optimal protection, a face shield should extend below the chin, reach to the ears, and have no exposed gap between the forehead and the shield (a gap typically filled by a foam cushion). Several brands of face shields are sold online and most are relatively inexpensive — costing roughly $3 to $7 per unit when two or more are ordered.
Face Shield Product Reviews:
ConsumerLab ordered face shields from four different companies, three of which were sold on Amazon and one was sold directly from the supplier in the U.S. Sign in for our ratings and reviews of face shields from Homasen, Hrgccase, Ringkle, and SafeProtec.
If you already use a face shield, feel free to share you experience, mentioning the brand you use, in the Comments section further below.