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Can I use a face shield instead of a mask?

Research so far indicates the best shields for preventing viral spread are hooded or wrap around the sides of the face.

Can I use a face shield instead of a mask?

No. Health officials don’t recommend the clear plastic barriers as a substitute for masks because of the lack of research on whether they keep an infected person from spreading viral droplets to others.

However, those who want extra protection may want to wear a face shield in addition to a mask.

Face shields have the added benefit of protecting your eyes and discouraging you from touching your face by acting as a physical barrier, says Christopher Sulmonte, project administrator of the biocontainment unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

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Meanwhile, the available research so far indicates that the best face shields for preventing viral spread are hooded or wrap around the sides and bottom of the face, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s because those shields leave less space for droplets from sneezing, coughing and talking to escape.

Credit: AP
In this April 2, 2020 photo, Tilliesa Banks, right, an emergency services nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, helps a colleague put on a medical face shield prior to their shift in a triage tent outside the Harborview emergency department.

If you do wear a reusable face shield in addition to a mask, the CDC notes the importance of cleaning it after each use. The agency also says you should wash your hands before and after taking it off, and avoid touching your face while removing it.

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For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms like fever, cough and shortness of breath. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The United States has more than 6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University.

Just after 4 a.m. EDT Tuesday, the U.S. had more than 183,000 deaths from the virus. Worldwide, there are more than 25 million confirmed cases with more than 850,000 deaths.