HOT TOPIC #27: Fact Check on Face Shields
COVID-19 updates from San Juan County around subjects on the minds of islanders
To be clear: Face shields have absolutely no ability to minimize the spread of droplets from someone infected with COVID. There is simply too much air flow around the shield for them to be effective. They are not an acceptable alternative to cloth face coverings.
It is totally understandable why some might think that they work as well as cloth face coverings, but unfortunately, that is not the case.
As orders requiring face coverings have become universal in Washington and beyond, nearly everyone has experienced the inconvenience of a covered face. Most of us are aware that we’re doing this to protect others from possible infection should we be asymptomatic and infected, and not to keep ourselves safe- but highlighting that point is important.
Clearly there’s a desire to find more comfortable ways to meet the requirements. Face shields are not one of them. While face shields do offer limited protection to the wearer, they offer no protection to those around the wearer.
Washington Labor and Industries does not allow standard face shields to worn as a face covering in the workplace (see this L&I FAQ on face coverings).
However, there are some solutions out there that can be acceptable alternatives to standard cloth face coverings:
- For situations where being able to see the wearer’s mouth is important there are face masks with clear material available. Here is one example.
- There are also face shields that are acceptable- those with a fabric drape around the perimeter of the shield. They are not yet universally available, but here is one example.
In short: cloth face coverings are the simplest, most cost effective, and best solution for covering our faces. There are some alternative approaches that may make sense in limited situations. Standard face shields do not minimize droplet spread and are never an adequate substitute.
When you see someone wearing a standard face shield in a public setting, they should be thought of as not wearing any face covering at all.