Coronavirus Face Shields vs. Face Masks: Which Is Better?

Good morning.

(This article is part of the California Today newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox.)

Last week, we introduced our ongoing series, Your Lead, where we answer readers’ questions about how the pandemic is changing daily life in California.

Today we are tackling our first question: Why have face shields not yet caught on as an alternative to masks in California?

Lori Holt, a neuropsychologist in Encino, posed this question. Dr. Holt conducts in-office assessments on patients using plexiglass barriers, air purifiers and disinfectants to protect herself and her patients from Covid-19. However, her efforts to conduct an accurate assessment are often stymied by patients who come in wearing masks.

“One of the thorniest issues we had to overcome involved the use of face coverings,” she wrote in an email.

Dr. Holt evaluates patients using a battery of tests to gauge things like a patient’s memory, attention and language. Face masks can sometimes muffle speech, posing communication challenges and potentially affecting the patient’s comprehension of the tests.

“If the patient doesn’t fully understand even a word or two of a paragraph or a word list that I’m asking them to remember for a verbal memory test, the entire test is ‘spoiled’ and unusable,” she said.

Dr. Holt has found that clear plastic face shields are a good alternative to masks for her patients, who can opt to wear their own masks or are given their own face shields that they can take home afterward.

“It is much easier to test the patients when they wear the face shield,” she said. “Their speech is much more intelligible than when they wear a mask. Also, we can see the patient’s face and thus do not lose critical data with respect to facial expression that can help us understand the patient’s emotional state of mind.”

Dr. Holt wondered about the popularity of face shields because, she said, despite the shield casting a minor glare, it is so comfortable that she sometimes forgets to take it off at the end of the day.

John Anderson, who lives in Penn Valley, Calif., asked a similar question about face shields. Mr. Anderson is hearing-impaired and prefers that others use face shields so that he can read lips. During a recent health checkup, his doctor wore a mask and his wife wore a face shield. He read his wife’s lips as she repeated the doctor’s words.

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all Californians to wear face coverings, like cloth masks, when out in public. The state’s Department of Public Health recommends wearing a plastic face shield with a cloth draped along the bottom only if the wearer has a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a cloth mask.

Face shields are also commonly used by front-line health workers, but more people are looking at face shields as an added layer of protection.

The Palo Alto Unified teachers’ union requested that the district supply teachers with face shields and other personal protective equipment when they return to school. And the state’s Department of Education recommends that everyone on school campuses wear masks or face shields with a drape across the bottom when schools reopen.

My colleague Knvul Sheikh wrote about the use of face shields, which can be easily wiped down and reused. Face shields also have the benefit of stopping people from touching their faces, and can be easier and more comfortable than masks.

However, experts say face shields have limits to the amount of protection they can offer. They seem to be most effective in protecting against cough droplets for people in close range of one another. And droplets can seep in through the back and sides of a face shield, which is why draping a piece of cloth along the bottom is recommended. But their efficacy has not yet been widely studied. For now, face masks are the better option for most people.

Regardless, we may be seeing a lot more of them in the coming weeks.

The City of Long Beach issued a health order last month requiring servers in restaurants to wear both cloth masks and face shields when working. Los Angeles issued a similar order this month.

  • Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


Because the face shields were cost prohibitive for some businesses, Long Beach began a free distribution program for face shields that it sourced from donations and from state and city resources. Last weekend, it distributed 4,800 shields in just a few hours.

Sandy Wedgeworth, the city’s public health emergency management director, estimates that the city still had around 25,000 face shields that it planned to give away to restaurants, bars and salons in future distribution events.

“We want them out there in the community. We want the folks that need them to have them,” she said. “They are no good to anyone sitting in boxes.”


We often link to sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times coverage, but we also encourage you to support local news if you can.

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.




Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *