Jul 06 , 2020
- Face coverings are required in many places around the US to protect people from coronavirus infections.
- I tried wearing a face shield instead of a face mask for about a week, and fell in love.
- The shield is easily cleaned, easy to see through, simple to breathe and talk in, and provides a physical barrier that protects both the wearer and others from infection.
- There is no solid evidence about whether a shield is superior to a mask, protection-wise, but experts say there's no reason to think that face shields are necessarily inferior viral barriers.
I'm just going to say it: I hate wearing my face mask.
Homemade face masks are uncomfortable, sweaty, difficult to breathe in, difficult to talk in, fog up glasses, and require regular washing.
Plus, they're imperfect viral barriers, especially if you're taking them on and off all day to talk, breathe, eat, and drink.
Luckily, I've found something far better.
I've been wearing a rigid plastic face shield — a protective barrier against disease made of plastic — that covers my eyes, nose, and mouth, in place of a makeshift face mask. I've been using it for about two weeks now as I walk around my neighborhood in New York, where face coverings are required in public to help protect people from catching the coronavirus.
The results have been delightful.
So before you brave another trip to the grocery store or the park in your Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended homemade mask, hear me out.
But, "if you just need some pretty good protection, and especially if you're just really worried about preventing you from giving someone else COVID, then the shield does actually protect you really well," said industrial designer Stephen Chininis, a professor at Georgia Tech and advisor to the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, where he 3D prints shields.
They don't require the elastic bands that healthcare workers often use for their shields, which have been in short supply.
"I mean, I can't wear a mask for very long," Chininis said. "In certain situations, it's just really difficult."
He said if you do use a shield, it's important to ensure whatever plastic barrier you use covers the face back to the ears and extends down below the chin.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security told Insider it would be extremely unlikely for someone else's viral particles to penetrate your shield, unless someone "sticks their face, sticks themselves directly" where there is a hole.
"The virus still follows gravity, right?" he said.
It's a lot easier to communicate with people in a shield, and easier to breathe. I've also gotten nothing but compliments on my new look.
I really don't mind keeping my shield on for extended periods of time when out running errands, and I never feel like I'm going to hyperventilate or pass out in a shield.
The reaction on the street has been overwhelmingly positive.
"Nice shield" two young men said as I walked by them on the sidewalk.
Another woman stopped me in the crosswalk on the way to my local hardware store.
"Can I ask you a question?" she said. "Where did you get that?"
Adalja said this is a major benefit of shields over homemade masks.
"I think that shields may be more effective, because you don't touch your face as much when you're wearing a shield," he said.
Shields are "simple, "affordable," and if everyone wore them — in conjunction with regular coronavirus testing, tracing, and hand washing — disease experts suggested that might be a better strategy than the homemade face coverings the CDC has recommended.
"Cloth masks have been shown to be less effective than medical masks for prevention of communicable respiratory illnesses," the doctors wrote. "Face shields may provide a better option."
They also cover your eyes, which a scientific review on the best ways to prevent coronavirus infections suggested may help prevent infections from spreading.
As always stay safe.