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Why face shields may be better coronavirus protection than masks alone
By RONG-GONG LIN II, MELANIE MASON
APRIL 24, 20207:58 AM
Officials hope the widespread wearing of face coverings will help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Scientists say the masks are intended more to protect other people, rather than the wearer, keeping saliva from possibly infecting strangers.
But health officials say more can be done to protect essential workers. Dr. James Cherry, a UCLA infectious diseases expert, said supermarket cashiers and bus drivers who aren’t otherwise protected from the public by plexiglass barriers should actually be wearing face shields.
Face shields are more effective than masks in protecting the wearer from viral infection, Cherry said.
Why are masks not that great at protecting the wearer?
Masks and similar face coverings are often itchy, causing people to touch the mask and their face, said Cherry, primary editor of the “Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.”
That’s bad because mask wearers can contaminate their hands with infected secretions from the nose and throat. It’s also bad because wearers might infect themselves if they touch a contaminated surface, like a door handle, and then touch their face before washing their hands.
Why might face shields be better?
“Touching the mask screws up everything,” Cherry said. “The masks itch, so they’re touching them all the time. Then they rub their eyes. ... That’s not good for protecting themselves,” and can infect others if the wearer is contagious.
He said when their nose itches, people tend to rub their eyes.
Respiratory viruses can infect a person not only through the mouth and nose but also through the eyes.
A face shield can help because “it’s not easy to get up and rub your eyes or nose and you don’t have any incentive to do it” because the face shield doesn’t cause you to feel itchy, Cherry said.
Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, an epidemiologist and infectious diseases expert at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, said face shields would be helpful for those who come in contact with lots of people every day.