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Half face shields cause controversy at Maine State House

Half face shields worn by some legislators are not sitting well with the Senate President.

AUGUSTA, Maine — There is controversy at the Maine State House over the legislature's face mask policy.

Republican Rep. Laurel Libby and others have been wearing so-called half face shields.

"It does not cover your nose and often times the way they are wearing it, it doesn't cover your mouth," Democratic Senate President Troy Jackson said.

"I think we need to be better at communicating," Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake said. 

The legislature's COVID-19 policy requires that masks cover both the face and nose unless the individual has a medical condition preventing the use of face coverings. In such a case, the policy states the lawmaker may participate in meetings remotely.

Jackson said people in the State House employees have quit because some are not following the policy and said the half shields are not acceptable.

"It's been the policy because of COVID and it's been the policy because the people have to work here on an ongoing basis are trying to protect their safety as much as possible. I don't understand why this keeps becoming an issue," Jackson said. 

But Libby and Timberlake said they were never approached about any issues over people wearing half shields.

"I don't know where the new change came. We wasn't told, we wasn't given any guidance [sic]," Timberlake said. "The one thing we always seem to lack around here right now is—we seem to lack communication about how things are happening."

The Maine CDC said it has no involvement in the legislative discussion. It did say face coverings are still preferred over face shields for source control. The Maine CDC said if you must wear a face shield instead of a mask, choose a face shield that wraps around the sides of your face and extends below your chin, or a hooded face shield. The Maine CDC goes on to say a chin shield type of product would not be recommended for COVID-19 source control.

Timberlake said rather than take the issue up on their own, he wants to consult the CDC to see if the shields are compliant. Jackson said if members don't wear the proper masks, they will be escorted from the building.

The legislative council plans to take up the issue next week. Libby said she has ordered a full-length face shield.

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