Are Face Shields Better Than Cloth Masks?

One of my readers heard my plea for something to wear that wouldn’t affect my breathing as much as a cloth mask and sent me a plastic face guard, like the ones dentists use. She says that she and her husband really like them. “We’re both old and have underlying conditions, plus my husband takes 2 immune suppressing drugs, so we don’t mind looking dorky!” You be the judge:

I tried this out yesterday and it’s way better than a cloth mask for purposes of breathing. The question is, is it as effective at protecting other people from my coughs and sneezes? It looks like it might be, though I doubt that an intuitive guess about the fluid dynamics of a face guard is worth much. But here’s a report in JAMA that says face shields are great:

According to Perencevich’s group, “face shields may provide a better option.” To be most effective in stopping viral spread, a face shield should extend to below the chin. It should also cover the ears and “there should be no exposed gap between the forehead and the shield’s headpiece,” the Iowa team members said.

Shields have a number of advantages over masks, they added. First of all, they are endlessly reusable, simply requiring cleaning with soap and water or common disinfectants. Shields are usually more comfortable to wear than masks, and they form a barrier that keeps people from easily touching their own faces. When speaking, people sometimes pull down a mask to make things easier — but that isn’t necessary with a face shield. And “the use of a face shield is also a reminder to maintain social distancing, but allows visibility of facial expressions and lip movements for speech perception,” the authors pointed out.

As it happens, my face shield doesn’t meet all these criteria: it doesn’t cover the ears and there’s a bit of a gap at the forehead. I don’t really get the ear thing, though. Cloth masks don’t cover the ears, after all. So why would a face shield that doesn’t cover the ears be any worse? In any case, Amazon didn’t present any better options, but one possibility is a hat-mask:

That covers everything and it’s stylish as well! Anyone have any better ideas?

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FACT:

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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